This is the first morning in several days I have not heard rain on the roof, thunder rolling, and lightening crack so nearby and loudly that it makes me jump. Yesterday we were supposed to meet and have our memorial for our sweet, dearest friend, Jay, who transitioned out of his body stiff with Parkinson’s last Tuesday. However, the psychic umbrella we placed over the area did not stay put, and when I woke up, it was pouring buckets again. I called Annie, Jay’s wife, and she said, yes, you are the twentieth caller, at least, and yes, the memorial is happening Monday, the same time, the same place.
I went to the visitation on Friday evening, a last-minute decision to attend, believing I might miss the crowd (I do not like being in large groups of people) and arrived five minutes before it was supposed to be over. The family was still there, gathered in a smaller room, decorated with beautifully arranged flowers, as well as some handpicked from a garden: heritage pink roses, large sunflowers (Annie’s favorite flower, which she grew) along with a live, blooming azalea. The closed casket made of cedar was obviously not a mass-produced box. It was beautiful. Built lovingly by Annie’s dad, also Jay’s friend, hand sanded and rubbed down with oil that allowed the wood-grain to stand out, it was smooth and lovely to touch, which I did, at Annie’s suggestion. I sat down on the sectional couch across from Jay’s casket with Annie and others. This family is the most vociferous group of people! They were telling stories about Jay and some of the things he had done, everyone bursting out laughing. At one point, Annie said, “Where is the camera?” and I pulled mine out of my purse, glad I brought it. I took pictures of everyone, including Annie, who played with me, putting her camera up to “shoot” me at the moment I was attempting to “catch” her. A few minutes past 8:00 P.M. Annie said, “Well, I guess it’s time to shut this down.” Several family members gathered up what needed removal, including all the photos of Jay from the past. What a fellow he was!
He was a quiet person, but so energetic and fun-loving in his younger days, before getting struck with the Parkinson’s. I knew him only during his last several years, as I was his care-giver for a while. The photos showed him sitting on horseback in his chaps; another shot of the back side of his entire body, arms and legs flailing out as he jumped into a skydive; another of him and Annie as they said their vows on their wedding day, thirty-plus years before; Jay as a little boy, blond and shy; Jay riding a motorcycle in a race, mid-air. There was a more recent photo, taken of him in the nursing home. He was sitting up in bed, his long hair draped over his right shoulder with Annie holding an infant, their grand-niece, up next to him, another infant laid across his lap. Jay was looking up at Annie, and Annie was smiling into the camera. Judging from the expression in his eyes, I imagine Jay was feeling, very simply, deep gratitude that Annie was there, for he was no longer able to move at all, and was no longer able to speak. Annie visited him almost daily these last few years. She was with him when he left. My guess is that Jay is still about, out of body, elated to know freedom of movement for the first time in many years. All who knew Jay and Annie over these many years cannot help but love them. Annie is a prime example of a universally loving person, and as far as I know, so was Jay. Blessed are we who knew and still know them.
Tomorrow is the funeral. We trust the waters will subside and we can all get across the low-water bridge to the cemetery. I look forward to the memorial, as I know I will hear more stories about Jay, which will include Annie, and there will be much laughter and some tears. A pot-luck happens after the burial. I hope the weather is mild.
Today it is overcast, and a good day to be home. I have a large zucchini to grate and bake into zucchini bread, which I can contribute to the pot-luck. There will probably be about three other loaves of the same, as everyone is certain to have an abundance of zucchini right now. For August, it is wonderfully cool, thus baking will be okay.
Today I will not check on the garden, for I know the tomatoes are still green, and I just harvested a lot of Kentucky wonders a day ago, or was it yesterday? I am losing track of time. In the morning tomorrow I will go to the garden and cut whatever flowers I find that are blooming, to take to the funeral. I shall leave early enough to make my way slowly into the backwoods where we will all gather to celebrate Jay. At this time, I am grateful to be included in this small community of souls who know how to tell stories, share laughter, tears, and good home-grown food. Blessed are we who live in this small area of the world, several of us off-grid yet participating in life at the core.