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When Penny was having gall bladder surgery in 1991 or thereabouts, we were told that there was a chance she wouldn't survive it.
We talked about what she wanted for her memorial.

"I want a national week of mourning, everyone wearing black sackcloth and ashes."

Incidentally, at the hospital when she was being treated for the dehydration and anemia, and they were thinking her well enough to go home, she also said "Every girl or woman who has to spend more than one night in this place should get a pony when they check out."

The service was exquisite, beautiful and painful, and the reception after is a blur of hugs and sad people and remembering.

Barbara had brought up photos that Penny's mom Jacquie had provided, along with a very abbreviated biography, but as she told me on the phone today, she didn't really want to share the personal parts of her life with strangers. Another sad thing, really. None of these people were strangers to Penny, and it's mostly Jacquie's own life choices that make them strangers to her. Still, she does what she has to in order to survive, and I can hardly grudge her that. My own biographies (bolstered by rememberances from her brother and best friend from high school and junior college) were more immediately useful to Ken in creating his homily because it HAS to be personal, but I did incorporate the information from her letter into what I wrote, as well.

I'll transcribe the service bulletin with the music and such later. I would ask Ken for a copy of the homily, but I think he actually does go ad-hoc from notes for a lot of this. We'll see. Anyway, I won't go into great detail here.

Her brother Pat got here Saturday, Barbara got here Friday evening and came over Saturday AM. The interment was Saturday at 5:30, just at sunset. Pat, Barb, and our friends Nancy Smith (and our godson Miles Smith) and Brad and Linda Needham were there. My cousin Cherie and her husband Liam were planning to be there but we didn't connect in time to give them better directions and they got lost on the way, but joined us at Treasure Island (chinese buffet) afterwards.

The next morning (Sunday) I got to church in time to skip the press of people at the beginning. I knew I would be leaking all over the place and no way would I hold up to multiple people at once with the hugs and the sympathy, at least, before the memorial. So I got there at about 10:12 and headed to the library where the reception afterwards was being prepared.

I took some food (almond 'candy' things that are made with malt sugar and are very low-carb but very yummy, and organic apple slices) to the kitchen on Saturday in case I was running later than expected, and was going to go through pictures Saturday night but decided not to. Most of our photos of each other are packed away somewhere in the un-finished moving-in.
Brad and Linda had provided photos from over the years, and I brought our wedding photos. John and Edith Prouty brought a photo I barely remembered. John had a full-sized blackboard in his dorm room, in college, and one day in finals week, Penny had drawn a chalk mural. They had a picture of that, with her standing beside it.

I went into the church and sat next to Pete and Sue Harris (Pete was Linda's highschool sweetheart, they married, had their son James, and realized that they really didn't want to be married to each other, but remained good friends and have been good friends to Penny and me as well). It was a folk service instead of the more formal choral music; I got in at the offering, which is the start of the communion half of the service. Lots of people didn't take communion, through some element of discomfort or feeling that it would be disrespectful.
This was slightly annoying, but, Ken didn't say the usual "We welcome all baptised Christians to come forward for communion, and if you wish not to partake, please feel free to come forward and receive a blessing."

I'm not sure how many people were there. The church was about as full as it usually is for a sunday service, and I know several of our friends couldn't be there because of previous commitments not changeable. We used Burial Rite II, even though the interment had happened the night before.

A beautiful flower-cross showed up sometime during the service, but I didn't know until later that it was sent by Penny's mom because they put the card in with the cards from the reception, and I should call her back and let her know that it was gorgeous. I may try to get a photo too. (Just called, and she was glad to hear that it arrived - it was the same cross they sent up for her father when he died years ago.)

At the end of the service Pat and I left a bit early with Father Dorsch, and we waited in the library ... the obligatory 'recieving line' thing. I think I got through that mostly because of the memorial and the homily, which helped center me in the knowledge that our mortal lives end in death but that we are raised up again into immortality through Christ. The perishable body falls and the imperishable rises up.

The fellowship hall and the sanctuary are used after our services by the Korean Baptist Church, who lease space from us while they are building their own church home, and their young adults music program was going on in the fellowship hall. I really liked that part. They were singing some modern 'rock faith' stuff that's so much better than the treacle-and-goo that passed for "Christian Music" when I was in college. The library is across from there, so we could hear it quietly. People gathered at the tables and sofas, and remembered good times spent together, and shared their sorrow. So, while it wasn't quite a national week of mourning, she will be missed.

Pat and Barbara and Jim and Edith Prouty all left a bit too early, and missed the group retreat to Olive Garden. That was nice, even though a waitress dumped a tray of water glasses on me and Mom, causing said waitress to retreat to the womens restroom crying. Mom calmed her down a bit as she was getting the ice water out of her dress. Having been a waitress, Mom understands accidents, though she never accidentally dumped ice water or hot coffee on a customer. She won't admit to having done so intentionally.

I got home at around 4:30 and expected to hear from Pat or Barb, but neither called. I think Barb might've gone back, and Pat ... I dunno. There was stuff I wanted to send down with him but he may have forgotten. This was much more devastating for him, because he doesn't get along well with his sister Patty, and Jacquie has been pushing buttons for so long that she no longer even knows she's doing it, and then wonders in all innocence why he is angry. Can't really explain it to her either - she actually CANNOT hear the other side on an emotional level, though she is able to follow the 'emotional logic' when it's explained.

For everyone that was there... Thank you all. You brought light into the darkness and helped with the pain of her going on ahead.
For everyone who wasn't able to be there but who remembered and prayed... thank you all.
For everyone who didn't know... If you remember Penny, say a brief prayer in thanks for her life.

Everything that the Father give me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me: That I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in hiim may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.
John 6:37-40


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 24th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)

I love the quote.
Jan. 24th, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC)
In the middle 1980s our church did the Renew program, and small groups of families met to help renew the depth of faith and doctrine that we felt should characterize our fellowship.

One of the people in our group was Larry Jackson, who died of liver cancer two years later. At his memorial service, one of the hymns selected was "I am the bread of life" ... which ends in a triumphal chorus, "I will raise them up on the last day."

I still can't hear that without feeling a sharp pain of longing, homesickness, and sadness mingled with hope. Unfortunately it was so moving that everyone who died in the following ten or so years had that song at their service. Penny and I had gotten to the point that we considered it overdone.

So, I chose that to be one of the readings because it echoes the tradition, and would recall it to the people who were there to remember her.
Jan. 25th, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
Hi Steve...this is Barbara. I did leave a bit early; it just got too overwhelming for me. I said goodbye to Penny as I left. I think Pat may have felt a bit overwhelmed, as well as a little out of place.

It was a lovely service and I think there were about 120 people there. I'm afraid I did not sing along as I have been coughing my brains out and it is only with huge doses of high-alcohol cough syrup that I am able to talk much. I thought it might be a little rude to start hacking and snorting.

And Penny would have fallen down laughing at the waitress dumping the water all over.
Jan. 25th, 2006 03:07 am (UTC)
Yes, she would have.

It did get rather overwhelming. I went on auto-pilot after a while.
Jan. 29th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
Re: people not taking communion...I have attended a couple of churches where the message was "if you are NOT a member of this church - which of course the only church that God loves - and you take communion, you are forever damned to hellfire." Others have given a more subtle message of "if you aren't 100% sure of your relationship with God and you choose to take communion...well, let's just say you were warned." And a couple of others just leave it at "Come on up and take communion if you want to...if you don't want to, that's fine too." And some churches teach that communion is a symbolic ritual, while others teach that transubstantiation takes place. Thus many people are confused and uneasy about taking communion anyplace but their home church.
Jan. 30th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I figured that was the case for many people ... and Ken really didn't make our position clear.

Most baptist churches (and most protestant churches that aren't Lutheran or Anglican) are so leery of the details of the mass, and the scary use of alcohol, and in general of the whole ritual of communion, that they only do it once a month, if that often, and I personally found that to be a great loss before I joined St. Bart's.
Oct. 6th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
Jim and Vanessa Prouty left early and did not go to the Olive Garden. John and Edith Prouty did go to the Olive Garden

John Prouty
Oct. 6th, 2006 09:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Correction
Aha! Thanks, John, I mis-typed that. I knew Jim and Vanessa had left, but what came out my fingers was goofy.

How are you guys doing? (email me at foomf at yahoo dot com)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )