Friday, July 31, 2015

The Memorial Service and the Lie

Today's Topic? The Memorial service.

Again, female spouse, still? Ruler of the house, still breathing?

Welcome to that express train through your newly widowed psyche, called "Widower 101."

Voltaire once said:

"One owes respect to the living: To the dead one owes only the truth."

My cousin Arnold, one of the kindest, wisest, most incredible men I personally know said this:

"Your wife will not care what sort of funeral she has. The ceremony is for those of us still living."

Amazingly good advice tendered hundreds of years apart.

And there you go.

When it comes to the memorial service, if you loved your dead wife, it's really your last chance, now isn't it, new widower? It's probably the only chance you will be able to speak to a group about how much she meant to you. So plan the memorial service with care, new widower.

Not for yourself either.

I mean your reason for existing is dead and you are basically dying every day in three-quarter time,  so plan that ceremony carefully, because there are people out there who need that sucker. Think of the mother, father, brothers and sisters, loved ones, and what they might be feeling.

They may not want you to put that plastic box in a paper bag, shove it into the closet, and then go drink yourself to death. Those people are going to need “closure,” whatever that might be, and so do you new widower.

So. Do. You.

Because the missis, died 2 days before Thanksgiving of 2013, the families decided we would wait out the holidays and have Ruth’s memorial service on Valentine’s Day of 2014. When I say family, I mean Ruth’s sister Esther; Ruth’s little sister, her only sibling.

She and I decided together, as a family.

I spent the holidays giving away toys to charity, donating Krispy Kremes on KVTA AM1590 in Ruth’s memory, making memorial collages, and losing my mind. I also began to prepare for the greatest performance I would ever give in my very limited acting career.

I worked on my routine for Valentine’s Day like a Swiss man making a clock. All the parts of the memorial service have to work precisely and somehow on that day, it all came together. 3 months of work really paid off. And it was all real, done with real love, except for one small lie.

To all budding theologists out there who believe there is no small or big lie, only small or big sinners, I say this: When your wife of over 2 decades dies on you, you will say or do anything to protect her memory. Lying even, if necessary.

Most folks, who actually know me, know I have been in plays and such, starting when I was 9 years old. In my lifetime I have been in the play, “A Christmas Carol,” twice. Once as Tiny Tim, the other time, as his father Bob Cratchit. I was quite the dickens as a child, I must say.

Also, I always put the script away first.
So when my better half stopped drawing breath, I immediately decided I needed to memorialize that relationship between my wife and her little sister, Esther. I knew the way instantly, and I picked up the book and read, re-read, and remembered that ultimate tale of faith. I wrote the words down, in big letters, on a piece of paper, I carried with me. I taped the words on the computer monitor.

I began to live and breathe those words.

And I took a picture of them, in my mind, just like with all the scripts I had read in the past. So on the day of Ruth’s memorial service, I talked about her sister, and she. I called them “Tom and Jerry” and “Frick and Frack.” They were really best friends forever, sisters, for real.

During my little talk up to this time, I had been holding a clipboard, wearing reading glasses, checking my notes, but when the moment I had been planning since Ruth died had finally arrived, with a lie, I was ready.

I stopped for a moment, laid down the clipboard, took off my glasses, and touched my nose like E.G. Marshall did in “12 Angry Men,” after he realized she did wear glasses. Then I just opened my mouth and lied until the cows came home. 

I said:“It was that ultimate statement of faith, said by Ruth in her own book, but what was it?”

I seemingly could not recall. I closed my eyes tighter, and squeezed my eyelids tightly shut. Then I said: “Oh yes, I think I remember.” Like I was actually just recalling it at that moment off the top of my head. 

Then after waiting again, just long enough to make everyone in the room really believe, that I could not remember, I opened my mouth, and lied with these words, just like a good Catholic schoolboy.

“I think Ruth said. Intreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God;

Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” Book of Ruth, Chapter 1, verses 16-17. 

Since I had been memorizing it for almost 90 days, it rolled out of my mouth like sunbeams with crying attached.

But I did not cry.

I almost got thrown off for a moment, when I blinked and saw that the whole room was weeping, including Ruth’s mother, who had named them Ruth and Esther, as she mouthed the words she knew so well. Weeping for her own Ruth, now gone.

I shut my eyes again quickly, and finished.

So all you people who were there on 2-14-2014, I did not remember Book of Ruth, Chapter 1, verse 16 and 17 off the top of my head;

I was lying.

I did it for the mother and the little sister, that’s why I lied, and I would do it again tomorrow. I just wanted people to understand how much I loved her and why. It was my last chance to say how much, to the whole world if possible, that I loved her, and what her life was about.

She lived like her namesake from the bible.

That’s why I lied too, and I am not sorry really, and I never will be.

Because if there is one thing that I learned from my late wife is that not only will goodness and mercy follow you, it will wait patiently for you. Until that day you figure it out and head down the road, you should already be traveling on; no matter if you are Pastafarian, Frisbeetarian, or even American Baptist, as was Ruth.

It was the only road that Ruth knew and she is still travelling on it right now. I think she would understand that I did it because I love her. And she would forgive me. 

I mean, I know she will, when I see my heart’s companion again.

Because that’s just how she was.

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