It’s been one week since the funeral visitation.
The days before and after blur like a watercolor painting left in a rainstorm. Habit alone reminds us of daily rituals: get up, take a shower, get ready for work. Take care of the kids. Feed the cat.
I went more than a week without doing any laundry. No grocery shopping. No nightly dinner preparation for my family of five. I’m not really sure what, if anything, got accomplished other than the status quo completion of required tasks, an unmanned plane gliding on autopilot.
Joy, my #oneword of 2016, stands along the outskirts of my week, handing me tissues and sharing in my tears.
The visitation was filled with friends, family, and flowers. The outpouring of kindness and love shown to our family in so many small ways reminds me again and again that there is good in this world.
I remember when my grandmother lost her battle with cancer sixteen years ago. The funeral home received so many flowers for her passing, they offered to open another room so people would have enough space to walk around. That was the way people showed their condolences back then – flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.
Times have changed dramatically in sixteen years, even with this rite of funeral flowers. Practicality and cost now govern decision-making and rightly so. Flowers are expensive, especially petals that are woven into wreaths or displayed on stands. Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend on objects that, while beautiful in the moment, have a limited luster and will quickly wither away.
In lieu of flowers, some send plants. While lacking in the vibrant colors and patterns of flowers, they can thrive beyond the period of mourning. They remind the living that there are things to care for and that they, too, are still alive. Plants are a lovely choice as well.
Sometimes there are donations. We’ve seen an increase with weddings and funerals for people to add a tagline: “In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to…” listing a favorite charity or organization. What a beautiful legacy to pay-it-forward in memory of someone else.
Mom Letter asked for donations to be made to hospice. For five months, hospice helped to care for Mom and provided support for our family. Now Mom has a way to say “thank you” to the hospice nurses and caretakers through the kindness of those who loved her.
Today my husband received the list of names of those who had donated in Mom’s name. Family. Friends. Neighbors. But one name stood out among the others.
Dr. Scott Otto, Libertyville, IL.
See, Mom Letter’s journey from diagnosis to hospice spanned more than two years and two states. Dr. Otto was the specialist who first cared for her. Talked with her. Helped her make decisions. It was Dr. Otto who knew her more intimately than any of us ever could – he literally held her existence in his hands in the operating room and surgically saved her life more than once.
It’s because of Dr. Otto’s care that Mom lived years, not months. It’s because of his dedication that we were granted extra time with Mom, sharing holidays and celebrations. It’s because of his signature that Mom was granted permission to move back to Virginia, to be surrounded by family, so that her final days could be filled with love.
And now, because of Dr. Otto’s generosity and the kindness of others, more families will get to do the same through hospice.
It’s been a tough week to write, but I hope as the hours turn into days, I will regain my momentum again. Thank you for taking the time to be a part of our lives and share in our journey. There is kindness everywhere, even in death.