Tuesday, August 21, 2012
In Loving Memory
I know regular readers know what I've been sorting through this month. But for others... I spent the first week of the month with a dying aunt and have since been trying to sort her estate. She had no husband or children, and as the main heir, it falls to me to do... the stuff...
*Cancel the utilities.
*Sort the belongings with respect given to others who have claim.
*Herd the cats, metaphorically speaking—different people know different stuff. I need to collect that and try to sort where things are contradictory... which has happened...
*Hire the lawyers to deal with probate.
*DEAL WITH PROBATE. (I know I have lawyer friends, but MAN, this class of people turns my stomach... probably because I only have to deal with them when I've been dealt a mess to sort)
*Mediate among family members, many disfunctional... Okay... not many... but painful when it happens.
But by far the most humbling of these experiences has been writing the obituary. Because see... I'm a writer. This shouldn't BE something that is that hard to me.
But see... it is.
Part of it is that this is BIG. A person I love has a life that needs representation. But the bigger part of it is that I just didn't know her that well. I knew her as my aunt. I have some memories of her as my dad's baby sister. She used to sing Puff the Magic Dragon to me when I was small and I loved it. I couldn't have thought of a better song. And I remember her as the caretaker for my grandpa for the last few years of his life. He lived to be 91, but he had a heart attack maybe 3 years before that and she moved home and cared for him... not easily. It was very hard for her. Hard because she had to give up a life she liked. Hard because I think the relationship wasn't an easy one. Hard because... taking care of someone who needs A LOT is just HARD.
So I wrote a few things I thought an obituary ought to have. I used some published models... and I ended up with something woefully inadequate. So I sent to some family and friends for help...
And one came through in spades. Her best friend from the last place she lived—a coworker from her most recent job—she wrote a heartfelt, beautiful paragraph. It made me happy Merilyn had someone who appreciated her so... and sad I hadn't known her that way. But it was really nice to find a home, so that finally my nonsense had a home. Here is what we ended up with:
Born November 27, 1951 in Moscow, Idaho, daughter of Merrill and Sylvia (Carlson), Merilyn Hart died of cancer August 7th in the home of her niece Camala Bailey in Tempe, Arizona. Merilyn worked with children in Vallivue School district in Caldwell, Idaho for 6 years as a Speech and Language Pathologist and previously worked in the Phoenix and Moscow areas doing similar work. She was highly intelligent and an excellent teacher. She was called upon often for mentoring teachers and assisting with educational plans for many students over her career. She was admired and respected by colleagues, parents whose children she taught, teachers, principals, and other speech pathologists. Merilyn will be greatly missed by her Idaho friends for the insight and help she gave so many educators in how to approach children with speech or language disabilities.
Merilyn had a sweet temperament and calm presence. In addition to her work, Merilyn loved reading, movies and animals—cats, in particular. She is survived by her sister, Patricia Clark (Rio Rico, Arizona), nieces Cammi Bailey (Tempe, Arizona) and Tami Hart-Johnson (Ann Arbor, Michican) and three great nephews and a great niece.
A memorial pot-luck will be held at her home (19878 Essex Avenue, Caldwell, ID 83605) at 4pm, Friday, August 24th for friends and colleagues and burial and a memorial service will be held next summer in Troy, Idaho when her family is able to all assemble.
See that highlighted part... the GOOD part... that was Mary, not me. A friend from the heart is better than a writer any day.
So all of you know, I will be gone for the next week, plus a few days. I may or may not blog again in August, but come September, I plan to pull my life back together, so you have that to look forward to. Don't forget that Joy's contest to win her books will run for this time I'm gone—we plan on a winner that Friday I get back (so I guess there will at least be that post).
In the meantime I will be in Idaho, learning about my aunt post-mortem. That sounds morbid, eh? But I look forward to a chance to meet the people who were important to her and go through her things and get to know her a bit. It's a bit of a sacred task. Does that make me sound crazy? I feel like it is, though—digging through somebody's life. You don't trust that to just anybody. I will see you on the other side.