That poem about everyone lying at my funeral–it wasn’t very nice, and I apologize. I think that everything you do say will be true, just as the nice things I say about you at your funeral will be true. Death, ironically, helps crystallize the love and appreciation we are all capable of having for one another. I suppose even in some cases when some abusive, selfish asshole takes leave of us. We can always say, he made me learn that I am a strong person, that I can overcome, and to be tender and understanding toward others in pain like I was. And maybe he was, in the great cycle of reincarnation, actually in a state of spiritual progress from a much darker soul, so who can judge?
I think it’s just as well that I won’t be around for the occasion, so you can say what you like without swelling my head. I never was very good a receiving praise anyway, at least beyond age eleven, when I discovered that believing the compliment most frequently conferred on my golden head was the epitome of conceit. Hearing “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon brings that moment back like it was yesterday. So I stopped believing compliments, unless received second or third hand, and even those I view as disinterestedly as I can. When I turn fifty I intend to absorb compliments like a sponge once again. I’ll be starting a Prezi file, in fact, so that the organizers of my funeral can get a head start on something to put up on the screen as folks mill around the reception room. Don’t you just love to have something to look at when you don’t know anyone at a funeral, and the food lineup hasn’t formed yet? Except I’ll ask some boisterous friend to announce, “Come on, everyone, the mayonnaise will spoil if you don’t dish up!” If my mother could be around then, I know she’d do it.
Turns out the family tree I married into has its dark secrets, and it’s now the time to talk about those from several generations back. Years ago I attended the funeral of the relative in question, and the man was decently honored–for his musical ability, his athletic accomplishments and physical strength, his brilliant blue Nordic eyes and charm. Hearts went out at the suffering he endured in his end of life sickness. I never heard from his daughter-in-law any word of criticism. But on the way home from the funeral of the wife of one of his grandsons from another branch last week, I heard the low down from the granddaughter, who had talked to some others that knew, in order to better understand the legacy of pain that came down into the next generations. Knowing the things he did also highlighted for me the turn toward the light in my husband’s parental line, thanks to a spiritual revival in the ’70s, and lots of prayer and church support as their kids grew up. “We didn’t know how to raise kids,” my mother in law explained, “so we prayed a lot.”
My in-laws recently announced their intention to pay for a trip to Norway next summer for their three children and their spouses (which would include me), to visit the Norwegian branch of the family in hopes of helping more connections form in our generation. Oddly, I was more interested in that than any of the three in the blood line. One even thought the Norwegians might not want to welcome the descendants of someone who, years earlier, had committed some kind of assault when he was in the neighborhood. There are also concerns about leaving our kids, who are the youngest, and my pregnant niece, so we’re not sure if everyone can go. Might be able to pop away to visit other places too–I’d like to see Scotland, for one.
Meanwhile it’s time to read up–nonfiction as well as Norway-related literature and poetry. I hope we can go. We’ve never traveled all together, we eight, and, judging by what I learned on that five hour drive to the funeral with my sister and brother-in-law last week, the journey should be pretty enlightening, a good chance to get to know my American family cohort better at the very least. And I hear that the central Norwegian landscape is beautiful, and that most everyone put in indoor toilets for the previous relatives’ trip. I expect to experience some similarities between lifestyle there and that of my own family line in Newfoundland, who also know about long, cold, winters and love their fish for breakfast. And how about those fjords!