Sunday, May 23, 2004
Today I went up to Eastern KY to attend the funeral of my great-aunt Frances (known to my brother and I as "Aint Fraince", to put it phonetically). She was 94 when she died (the photo was taken about 16 years ago). She had Alzheimer's, and at the end, really didn't know anyone or seemingly much of anything. It was a very sad end for someone I always thought of as one of the most vital people I ever knew. She was my mother's mother's sister, but since my maternal grandmother died well before I was born, she sort of functioned as a grandmother to me, especially since my father's mother lived in extreme western KY, about a 4-hour drive or so. I only got to see her a couple of times a year at most, so Aunt Frances would have us (or usually just me, as I remember it) come and stay over at her duplex in downtown Lexington. She had this great claw-foot tub that she would fill all the way to the top for me to bathe in, and I remember feeling so elegant and grown-up in that tub. She "force-fed" me Lawrence Welk, and helped me learn to sew (although my mom says I was born with ancestral memory of that skill and no one really taught me). She was someone I could talk to, and she said some of the most outrageous things, like the story she told about how, at age 5, I supposedly wrote her a letter telling her that I would "never marry no [black man]." (You can insert the derrogatory term here, she was of that generation, after all...) I don't remember that particular incident, and I didn't grow up racist, despite the leanings of some of my country cousins. Unfortunately, that was one of the last stories to leave her ravaged memory.
Aunt Frances was a seamstress by trade, working in one of the last big old-fashioned department stores in Lexington, Lowenthal's, as an alterations person for their wedding department. She walked to work most days, one-and-a-half miles each way. She would also think nothing of walking to the mall to shop, which was almost 3 miles one way. She did that until the Alzheimer's got so bad that it was dangerous for her to live alone, and she lived the last few years of her life in a nursing home. I would say that I will miss her, but really I have missed her for a long time, because even though her body has been functioning, Aunt Frances hasn't been around for a long time.
One thing that has been solidified by each funeral I attend lately (and it seems like one of those seasons when I am going to many) is the conviction that I want to be cremated when I die. I can't stand the thought of people standing around my shell in a box in some sad old house, saying, "Wow, they really did a good job with her--she looks so natural!" And truly unbearable is the thought of having that shell lowered into the ground in an expensive box, with an expensive vault to contain the box, and an expensive stone to mark where the box is. I actually have told Alan and Liz that when that time comes, I want all usable organs to be donated, down to bones and skin, the "leftovers" cremated, and then for them to find some idyllic spot (Ireland, perhaps?) to scatter my ashes. Then afterwards, all of my friends can get together if they wish and have a good, old-fashioned drunken wake where everyone tells funny stories about me or reminisces or whatever. That's how I want to be remembered. Well, I really didn't want this post to take the somewhat morbid turn it seems to have taken, so I think I'll close it now. Btw, this is not the "epic post" that I've had cooking in my brain for several weeks--that's gonna have to wait for another day. Oh, yeah, one more thing I learned today that surprised me--you know that old saying, "Your mama wears Army boots"? I feel kinda like that typing this, but--my Mom likes Macy Gray! She told me so as we were listening to my new Norah Jones CD in the car on the way to the cemetary.
Hi, I'm Debi. Once in a while I have a thought and I like to write it down before it goes away. This is where I write it.
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a cup of Rich