I am going to a holiday party given by my bestie in two weeks. I am looking forward to it. The woman knows how to make folks feel at home in her home. She is a relaxed hostess with a generous spirit, so it will be a fun time. The food will be great, and I look forward to seeing mutual friends. 'Tis the season, right?
It has been a while since I have had a get-together of my own like that. The reasons are pretty obvious, but I guess having people over is among the many things I miss about my pre-cancer life. It is fun to play Martha Stewart on occasion, to drag out the seldom-used china and serving platters, and cook up those favorite dishes. Let’s face it: nothing brings people together like a good party.
Except maybe a funeral.
Hold on. I am not taking a morbid detour here. Where I am from, home of the jazz processions and massive above-ground tombs, attendees often dance their way to the graveyard. There is usually a big soiree afterwards. The tables are laden with every kind of dish imaginable, while the beer and wine flow freely. The room quickly fills with the sounds of merriment as people tell story after story about the life of the deceased. Some seem like tall tales, exaggerated for effect, but the purpose is to celebrate a life well-lived and a person well-loved. Yes, it is quite the spectacle, but somehow, it makes the grief bearable. Laughter and tears, like joy and grief, are opposite emotions, but equally strong reactions. It is okay to feel both at such times.
Sadly, the dearly departed never gets to hear the carefully-practiced eulogy or see who shows up to pay their respects. Nope, a dead person is unable to attend the big tribute held in his honor or taste the chicken casserole made by Cousin Sue. What a shame.
I am reminded of Tom Sawyer, who, in Twain’s novel, fakes his death and then, secretly attends his own funeral. He listens with rapt attention to the speakers, who shower him with praise, later remarking that it was “the proudest moment of my life.” Isn't peeking into life after one is gone to see just how much we are missed one of the great fantasies? Sometimes I think that life should imitate art.
So here is a thought: what about a “living funeral” for someone who is very old or very ill? (And yes, that term is indeed an oxymoron.) But it isn’t such a bad idea, is it? I think being able to say goodbye, while being surrounded by those whose lives have been aligned with ours in big and small ways would be pretty wonderful. Being part of the celebration, rather than the object of it, might be interesting and enjoyable. In other words, why wait until someone is gone to honor them, to let them know their life has made a difference in yours? And it's the perfect reason to have a party!
I am not much of a country music fan, but Tanya Tucker just released a new song, “Bring my Flowers Now,” which perfectly expresses this powerful message. (Ask Mr. Google to play it for you. It really is beautiful.) Spend time with those who mean something to you while you can; tell them how important they are while they are able to hear the words. Enjoy being in the company of those you love. This moment is all any of us are guaranteed, so embrace it and each other.
My bestie brought me two dozen roses this week. Yeah, she gets it without even hearing the song. I told you that she is special.
And no, I am not planning my own goodbye celebration anytime soon, but maybe I will have a Mardi Gras party in a few months. I have some beads in the attic. I can still make a mean gumbo, too. We will act a little crazy and get a ittle loud. I'll buy flowers. There are some folks to whom I certainly owe big fragrant bouquets. Sooner than later.