My mother didn’t want to go look at my dad
I got the text message that he’d passed. I went upstairs to be with Mom when the call came from my sister, Andrea. But as soon as I walked in the room, Mom knew.
That was Tuesday morning, May 30th. She didn’t want to see him. She wanted to remember him alive. We agreed that it was her choice.
I took the subway down to the hospital. My mom re-thought and decided that for closure, she should come down. Ben, my sister’s husband, and Eli, their son drove her downtown.
Meanwhile, I’d silently entered his room. Andrea and Lea, her daughter were there, both red-eyed. Larry was there and told me the story. He’d arrived shortly after 6 a.m and as he was taking off his shoes, a nurse asked him why. He’d said that he didn’t want to wake anyone. The nurse said that there was no need for caution. Larry understood.
He gently woke up Andrea and Lea, still asleep in the room, to let them know.
He was so peaceful. I lifted up the bedsheet to look at his legs, his feet. They’d told us that prior to death, we’d see mottled skin or some discolouration. None of that was apparent. His legs were pristine.
“What about rigor mortis?” I asked the nurse, who walked in. “It’s started,” she said. “Just lift his arm and you’ll notice the heaviness.” I did. There was a stiffness.
Then, Mom walked gingerly into the room, approached the bed. She kissed my dad, then sat down by his side, holding his hand, still warm.
We showed her how soft and silky his legs were. Then we covered him up.
My mom shook her head. “He looks like my father,” her voice was small in her grief. She cried by his side, looked at him, whispered some words and cried some more.
We waited as long as possible, then had to leave so that the nurse could zip my dad into a body bag. The team from the Funeral Home were on their way to pick him up.
We packed up our belongings: his clothes, a plant, sugarless halva, the wireless speaker, used for his favourite Porgy and Bess and standards by Ella. The flowers were given to the angelic nurses, then we left. My brother and I headed off in one car, and my sister drove Lea and mom. We’d meet at the funeral home about an hour later.
There was some time before that appointment, so on the way, Larry, decided that we needed to do one thing: donate my mother’s bowling ball to the alley where she’d played in her bowling league. After all, it was on the way.
We pulled up and noticed a new logo over the door – the exact same colour scheme as my Mom’s bowling bag. We went in and when we told them that we’d like to donate the bowling ball, we were met with enthusiasm and grins. Never before had anyone come in to donate a ball. In honour of the occasion, they turned on the lights of the alley and suggested that we bowl a few frames. Larry took a shot with my mom’s ball, but his fingers didn’t fit – gutter ball! I took a shot, gutter ball. He realized he’d have to take a picture of the event, so I posed, realigned my aim and bong, splank – a strike! First time I’d bowled in about 40 years. Not bad. …
We left with smiles on our faces and headed for the funeral home to go over the details of dad’s ceremony. It was Tuesday. That day at sundown, began the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot meaning that there could be no funeral till after the holiday – Friday morning. Also, Jack, my dad’s brother had told us that he was busy in court and could only be free on Thursday. Good timing.
We sat and waited in the lobby. On the wall were the founders of the Home. The place was quiet, so quiet that Larry dozed off for a few minutes, his first peaceful sleep in probably a week or so. My mom and sister pulled in. And we began what was to be a 2-hour meeting including complimentary bottles of their own mineral water, some coffee and comfortable chairs. Then homemade cookies were brought in and my mother indulged.
Detail after detail – page after page. Re-affirming the coffin, the style of guestbook and whether or not we’d want a police escort for the funeral procession.
Midway, Andrea asked me in a text if I thought the curly haired funeral director used ‘No poo’ products for his style. The question was apt, as it was all bizarre. The coffin they’d selected looked so small. “Are you sure that Dad can fit into this?” I asked.
“Yes, no problem, it’s deceptively narrow but there’s room for his shoulders.”
And then, “Oh yes, there’s the matter of a suitable shroud. “
My mother mentioned “He has a salmon coloured sports jacket that he loved.”
“Yes, but it’s traditional to dress the deceased in layers of loose robes. My question is would your prefer muslin or Israeli linen”.
“Linen wrinkles,” I said. “Cotton muslin is fine.” Agreements were made, papers were signed.
We left the place knowing we’d reconvene Friday morning, picked up by a special van and delivered on time.
Larry and I left together and on the way decided to stop at the Dollarama to pick up paper plates and plastic cutlery for the meals we’d have to serve after the funeral.”
We arrived and while selecting a blue/yellow assortment, it began to pour, torrentially. At the sign of the forked lightning, we knew that Dad had left the earthly plane.