Decanting Souls

Jan asked, “Will we decant mom on Sunday, then?”

The week was full of boxes crammed with scrapbooks, photos, and correspondences — scattered through the house, the storage building, the pool house and workshop: detritus of Barbara K. Johnson’s life.

We laughed hard to hear little Jill write her mother in the hospital, that she neither believed her brother that mom was in the hospital, or worse, was having a baby and it was another boy.  It was funniest when Jan read, “And please do NOT call him Douglas” to the youngest, Doug.  So my dearest Jill held strong opinions at age nine and could articulately express them.

We each mutely read the neatly typed letter wherein Philip, their dad, said he had not had sexual relations with the woman he had run off with over the weekend, and he would return as pastor if all could be forgiven.

Steve quietly sorted the box with all of the bills that Phil returned unpaid to the hospital, pharmacy, and utility company after he left for good with the woman and emptied all of the accounts.

And I was struck by the probability that all great fiction, all award winning plays are barely recognizable shadows of authors’ families, or the shattered family of friends, or the shattering family at home.

And all these years later, the siblings taking cues from the astounding woman of God they had as mother, these siblings who had visited the man of unpaid bills in the nursing home as he wept and laughed with them, were choosing what will go to flame tonight in a bonfire of vanities, joys, and deep realities.  And they cho0se what to give to children and grandchildren.

Doug, who happens to be an award winning woodcarver has carried out one last wish from Nana, Barbara, and carved a final resting box for her ashes, kept safe in the plastic bag in which they were delivered over a year ago.  And on Sunday we will decant her ashes, as reverently as the siblings decanted the correspondences, savored them, laughed and wept over them.  We will decant them into Doug’s box preparing them for February when these four proud children of Barbara K Johnson will head to a windswept cemetery in South Dakot to send her ashes on a slow journey of becoming one with the dust of Alcester from whence she came.

And that will be the end of it, unless you know anything about Jesus and final banquets at the juncture of time and eternity, where we will decant life in the limited way we know it here, as an aperitif toward heaven.

Sunday Breakfast with the Temps

I am enjoying breakfast in one of our countries finest two star hotels.   We are all, temporarily, friends and family, eating alone together.

I am watching LifeChurch online and that is a wonder all by itself.

But I am stunned by the parade through our tiny breakfast room.

He and she are both tower over six feet and wear similar flannels and themed T-shirts, hers against breast cancer, his for the Thunder.  They both distract and reward their child with food.  They both are deferential and confident.

The weekend volleyball warrior has brought her own cheering squad of six sisters, mom and dad and a delayed hope.  Her exuberance and budding beauty shine past the grill of perfecting teeth.  Mom and Dad’s hope was finally rewarded, and their little son basks in the attention of one Mom and seven spares.  He is already spoiled, and firm in his belief that he is the center of the universe.

Furtive, with her hair up, just the tips of the red showing, matching her running shorts and shoes if they were not dirty.  She grills one waffle and downs it with two packets of syrup while grilling a second.  She eats like a little animal, her eyes darting toward the open door, certain that something bigger lurks nearby to take her breakfast.  As soon as her third waffle is beeping, ready for her, she pulls it off, adds more packets of syrup and peanut butter, and slips out of the room headed down the hallway where either a room or a waiting car.  She did not drink nor take anything to drink.

She reads USA Today, two days old on a Sunday, and nibbles at a bagel, awaiting the man aof all these years whose toast and coffee are ready when he enters.

The hostess enters all in white and talks as if we are old friends.  I have been here four times on business this year.

I am simply overcome, awash in the stories flowing around my own short story story some days, and stunned.  We are used to living with hundreds and thousands of lives flowing right next to us, and that miracle, of all miracles, is what Muslim extremists want to kill.  IT could easily be all of us furtively eating and rushing back to our rooms with the balance of breakfast.

I finish my apple juice, mildly unhappy that they were out of orange juice and head to the room to pack up and load up the truck to head back into the field.