29: The Funeral

29: The Funeral

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

The Funeral

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

~Dr. Seuss

One morning, I make what I think is going to be a routine call to my ninety-two-year-old mother. For the past eight months, she has been living in an adult home. She is popular with the residents and staff, who appreciate her sense of humor and consideration for others. Although she has memory issues, she generally has a good grip on reality.

“How are you doing today?” I ask.

“Not too well, I’m afraid,” she says.

“What’s the problem?”

“I’m supposed to be at my funeral,” she says. “But I’m not ready.”

“Did you say your funeral?”

“Yes. My funeral. I’m supposed to be there. I think it’s next Monday. If I’m not there, or if I’m late, people will be inconvenienced. Some of them have to take time off from work or drive long distances to attend.”

“But aren’t you forgetting something?”

“What’s that?

“You’re still alive.” I pause. “Aren’t you?”

“Well, I woke up this morning,” she says. “That’s a pretty good sign.” She laughs. “But when I was getting out of bed, I suddenly remembered I had to be some place, and I wasn’t ready. Haven’t you ever had that feeling? Then it hit me. Of course, it’s my funeral.”

“Look,” I say. “Today is Sunday. I’ll call Bonnie and see if she can meet me at your place after lunch. Then we can sort things out.” Bonnie is my younger sister.

“I’d like that. Funerals are important,” she said. “We only get one, you know.”

I call my sister and tell her about my conversation with Mother.

“That’s odd,” Bonnie says. “It’s not like her to be so out of touch with reality.”

“I’m not so sure that she is,” I say.

“What do you mean?”

“You know how uncanny her intuition is.”

“You think she’s sensing her own death? She just had a checkup, and the doctor said she’s in perfect physical health for someone her age.”

“Why not play along with her? We’ll need to make funeral arrangements sometime anyway. Maybe it would ease her anxiety if we made them now.”

“And reinforce her delusion?”

“To us, it’s a delusion,” I say. “But to her, it’s reality.”

My sister, my mother, and I meet and agree to plan the funeral. I make an appointment with Fred, one of the funeral directors of our local funeral home. The next afternoon, the three of us arrive at our appointment.

Fred is a pale, silver-haired gentleman of medium height and build. He shakes our hands and escorts us to the back of the funeral parlor. We sit at a large, round table set on a thick, red carpet just off a showroom lined with miniature display coffins and cremation urns.

“I think it is wise that you came as a family to plan Mrs. Brigham’s funeral,” Fred says. “I will walk you through all the necessary details so that when you leave here today, you can rest assured that everything will be taken care of.”

“That would be wonderful,” says Mother.

For the next hour and a half, the three of us plan every aspect of the funeral. Mother decides on a pink theme: a pink coffin with crepe interior, pink flowers, and memorial cards with a pink rose. And, of course, she wants to wear her favorite pink outfit. The funeral director says he will make all the arrangements for the burial at the cemetery, including having the family headstone professionally cleaned and the date of her passing added. He apologizes for not having a pink hearse and almost laughs.

“Is there anything else I can do for you today, Mrs. Brigham?” asks Fred.

“No. You covered everything.”

“There is one more thing,” I say. “This may be an unusual question, but Mother would like to know how she can be sure she will make it to the funeral on time. She has been worrying about this lately.”

Fred turns to my mother and speaks directly to her. “Mrs. Brigham, when the time comes, we will send a car and bring you back here. We handle every facet of our services from this facility. Your funeral will not proceed until everything is ready, including you.” I am pleased with how well Fred handles this question.

On Wednesday, I call Mother again.

“How are you doing today?” I ask.

“I feel so much better,” she says. “I’ve invited everyone I know to my funeral.”

On Thursday, I receive a call from the adult home telling me that Mother had been taken to the hospital in the night. When my sister and I visit her bedside the next morning, the nurse tells us that Mother’s large intestine has ruptured, and she is in kidney failure. Death is imminent. Although Mother appears pale and weak, she has a peaceful expression. She drifts in and out of consciousness with no sign of pain or discomfort.

“Where am I?” she says.

“In the hospital,” I say.

“Am I dead?”

“No. You are alive. Bonnie and I are here with you.”

“Tell Fred to send the car for me,” she says. “I’m ready.”

~D.E. Brigham

Author’s Note: The funeral was held on Monday, September 9, 2015, and Mother was on time.

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