The young woman’s eyes darted across the table. She looked lost in the familiar surroundings. There she was at a table she had sat at thousands of times before next to the the fragile looking woman. At first glance, an outside observer would have guessed the older woman to be in her eighties not 59. Her gray hair and her hunched back, her blinded eyes and hands that refused to work.
The young woman lifted a spoon to the older woman’s chapped lips.
The young woman kept biting her lip and occasionally would look at her Mom. She would squint her eyes as if looking for something; some recognition of the woman that used to occupy that chair. The woman she called Mom, but for whom the daughter now cared for like a helpless infant.
The pair continued with small talk. The young woman telling a story about her small daughter. Both laughed weakly over some funny thing said or some cute thing. This duo had obviously spent some time exchanging the leader role in this dance they now were in.
“I have a favor to ask of you”
“Of course,” the young woman looked up and was ready to run off and get whatever it was her Mom was about to ask her to get. Eager to step away from the table and breath for a moment.
“I know the music that I want played at my funeral”.
Funeral. Life always ends with death but the vocabulary of death sounds as final as the state itself.
Changes in medication and results of doctor appointments were all topics of conversation these two had had. This was the painful inevitable. Funeral. For there to be a funeral there was one more word that had to happen. One still left unspoken. Death.
A few more words spoken and slowly the dance changed.
“Get some paper and write this down,”she said to her daughter.
She sat up a little straighter and her voice became a little stronger. The Mom returned and briefly the daughter was more at ease in the role she knew how to play.
On the yellow legal pad the two outlined the funeral. A casual observer would have assumed that they were compiling a grocery list or some other list of everyday life. This was the final list.
The daughter knew that she didn’t need to write these things down. How could she forget her dying mother’s request for funeral music? She kept assuring her Mom that it was all down and that her wishes would be followed to the tee.
The energy that the woman spent in setting forth the specifics of her own funeral was apparent. Soon her voice was weaker and she slumped a bit deeper in her chair.
“One more thing. The flowers. Yellow carnations. Roses are too expensive”
Five months later the family sat in the office of the funeral home director. The two daughters and the father had just picked out the casket. It had taken all of their collective energy to do just that.
Yet, there was one more thing that they needed to choose.
“Mom said she wanted yellow carnations. She said that yellow roses were too expensive.”
There was a laugh that all of them shared. Even in her death, she was as thrifty as she was in life.
“She will have as many yellow roses as they have in all of the flower shops in town,” the father said.
His cheeks were damp and they all knew that there were not enough yellow roses in all the world to fill the void that was now in their lives. Yet through those yellow roses the healing began.