Last Rites

Mar. 25th, 2013 06:57 pm
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I wrote this for my friend, after a day she'd spent putting down one animal after another. It's behind a cut because it's about euthanasia.
Last Rites )


May. 12th, 2009 08:24 pm
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What makes a life successful?

She lived a long life. Not many people get that close to a century of living. Most of it was active and healthy. Fifteen years ago, she was still preserving her home-grown fruits every summer. Slower, mind you. Even a spry octogenarian isn't as young as she once was.

Do we measure success only in years? We often seem to, for civilizations, for monuments, for works of art - but not usually for people.

She overcame hardship in her life. Her mother died when she was ten, and she and her siblings were split up and farmed out to relatives from Ontario to Florida. Finding her brothers again when they were all in their sixties - that was a success. She survived the Depression, quite handily in fact. Her husband was a hard worker in a good trade and she was skilled at making ends meet.

Is success the simple act of making a comfortable life for oneself? Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is often touted as success, especially if starting from nothing.

She contributed to her church, with her time and her money and her belief. She was a pillar of the Home League and sang in the Songsters. She was above reproach in every way. There's a success in living up to your own ideals and to those of your community. There's a success in having a minister intone, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," at your funeral, and have everyone there quite certain that you deserve the praise. There will be no lies in her eulogy, for there will be no need to gloss over the truth of her life.

Yes, there's a success in that.

And there's a success in being laid to rest next to the man you shared more than three-quarters of a century with. There's a success in reaching a venerable age and having, not children with a duty, but grandchildren of second cousins, step up to look after you. There's a success in being remembered fondly by two little girls, distant relatives by most measures, who called you "aunt" and knew of your life and were sad at your death.

Go gently into that good night, Aunt Amy. Uncle Frank is waiting for you, not so very far ahead. You achieved success in the places you sought it - in your church, in your home, in your friendships, in the lives you touched right to the very end. No one could ask more of you.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
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That's the Salvation Army's euphemism for death. I believe I first asked what it meant when I was about five. I first understood what it meant when a middle-aged man from our church - the kind who was always there, always involved, solid as a rock - simply didn't get out of bed one Sunday morning when I was eight. His was not the first death of someone I'd known, but it was the first that touched me more than peripherally.

Some of you who have been with me a long time may remember Aunt Amy and Uncle Frank. They've been married seventy-seven years. They were living independently until two and a half years ago. Since that post - note the date, July 2005 - they've been doing all right in the nursing home, visited regularly by my in-laws and my daughters, and occasionally by me.

I've known them all my life. My grandparents are good friends of theirs, and until they started feeling their age were among the supports that Frank and Amy leaned on to stay independent - not that Frank needed much help. He was still out chopping down dead trees on his property until a few years ago. They were part of the church where my mother grew up.

Uncle Frank was promoted to glory today. He had a bad fall last week and never properly rallied from it. I suspect - in fact I hope - that Aunt Amy will not tarry long behind him. Their time apart should be as short as their time together was long.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Frank. I hope the afterlife turns out to transcend everything you ever believed it would be.

June 2017



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