Here in SE Pennsylvania, March is the month when the first green shoots are visible. We delight in late February’s delicate snow drops, but March is when we glory in blankets of crocus & banks of daffodils, trees fuzzy with leaf buds, extravagantly magenta red bud trees, creamy white & pink magnolias.
March is also, historically, the darkest, darkest month for my family – my parents, my siblings & myself. It’s the month my grandfather died when Mom was nineteen, when my mother had a nervous breakdown at 46, when my 11-year old brother was killed when she was 49 & I was eleven, when Dad died at 63, when I got the boot from my dream teaching job, when Mom & Kerry had a disastrous communication debacle. I can now add to that litany “the month my oldest brother told me he wanted me to plan his memorial service.”
That sounds possibly bothersome, but dark & dank? Yes, so very yes.
My brother has not made any secret, at least to me, of his dislike. Per our mother, when a counselor they saw for one visit in the late 1990s remarked on the apparently tender relationship he had with my sister & asked if they had always been close, Peter replied, “No, it is recent.” As relayed to me by Mom, when the counselor asked what drew them together, Peter answered, “We discovered that neither of us liked Elsa (me).”
Now, Mom might have misrepresented what was said, but it rings true to me. Even as a little kid, I was under no delusion about Peter’s feelings; as an adult, I understood that my value to my to key sibs was determined by what I could do FOR them.
I strove for years to create some sort of relationship with my older sibs because, no matter what their feelings, I do family. Or perhaps more “I do relationship,” and see myself related to all living things. I didn’t help my sibs because I thought they’d like me or treat me as a blood relative, but because they were in need & that is what humans are meant to do.
But one comfort I had over the past four years of being there for Peter was that I would not have to plan his memorial, given I have no ties to the church he has attended for many years & that has been wondrously supportive of him since his health declined over the past decade. But he doesn’t plan on having it at The Church of the Messiah. He wants it at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral. And guess who has the connections there necessary to plan a memorial?
Although I understand that looking our mortality in the face can send us back to our childhood roots, I confess to thinking it is just plain scuzzy to ditch the church where people actually know himto have his memorial in one where he’s a stranger to anyone under seventy. And why? Because of long dormant childhood connections? He wasn’t married there, his children weren’t baptized there. His adult connections are to churches outside our faith. But it is a stunning building.
And once I got over the shock of being told what he wanted from me – took several days – I began to see the fun. Peter has certain music he wants, maybe favorite recordings – thank heavens, cathedral’s excellent sound system can handle any playlist, so whatever he wants can be woven into the prelude interlude postlude, with live organ for the hymns. And because the services are live streamed, Reynolds can watch from North Carolina, Scott from Georgia, Whitney can watch from Texas, Jim from Missouri, Karen P from Nevada, Angie from California, Mike & Kerry & Karen E from New South Wales.
This unwelcome request joins the litany of March’s dank moments. I hope when the time comes to do whatever it is that’s expected that I will turn this unwanted task into a moment my brother would have savored.
March has officially blended into April. At last. Bih bye!