Saturday, November 22, 2008

I did not know him -- jcarolek

A few days ago my choir director called me. She wanted to know whether I would be available to play at a memorial service this morning. I assured her I'd be there, guitar in hand and ready to sing at 10:20.... the service was to begin at 11.

Last night I went to bed, reminding myself that today was the day I was to play for a man I did not know, but whose family wanted his memory to be honored with song. And off to sleep I went. This morning I awoke early, before the sun rose and I was anxious to do something. What I wanted to do was paint my living room. I don't know why today, of all days, I had this very strong desire to paint the room that had remained the builder's white for nearly seven years, but that's what I awoke knowing I wanted to do today. But first, the service.

Typical for me, I ended up piddling around in the house, doing my eBay orders, taking care of the animals, doing a little laundry, and before I knew it, it was time to head to church. I grabbed my guitar, and the packages I would drop at the post office on my way, and headed out. As I got out of the car to go into the post office, I looked down and noticed I was still wearing my sneakers... great! I was dressed in a nice black pant suit, with white sneakers with metallic silver "accents." OK, I didn't know the man, but I was NOT going to play at his memorial service wearing sneakers....

I looked at the clock in the car, and I still had enough time to run to Walmart and buy a pair of black heels and make it to church on time. I did NOT have enough time to return home for the black heels I already owned and which I had intended to slip on as I walked out the door.

Once in Walmart, I strayed, just a bit.... past the paint aisle.... "no, no, go get the shoes and get to church already!" the little voice was nagging me... I grabbed two gallons of the paint and the color swatch I wanted and asked the man to mix them while I ran to get the shoes. Thank goodness I am not picky. I had the shoes in less than two minutes and I picked up my shaken paint on my way back. Self check-out, and I was on my way with three minutes to go. I pulled into the church parking lot at exactly 10:20 and nobody except me knew I had started out in sneakers....

The service was very nice. One of the songs we sang in church last week, a song we have sung only maybe three times, was the Irish Blessing. After Mass, the widow of the man for whom this service was to be held came up to our choir director and asked that we play it at the service. It seems she and her husband said that prayer/blessing together each and every day, at the start of their day.... It is a beautiful song. I was especially moved by the young woman who read a poem she had written for this man I did not know. She had known him well. Though not related in any way except love, she read her tribute to the man she had adopted and who had adopted her as a granddaughter...for she had no grandfather of her own.

Funerals and memorial services are always touching to me. They speak to me so much of life and not so much of death. We remember our life together with this person, and share the joy in his going on to live the promised life. And of course there is always a little sadness, but the new beginning for the newly departed is what it is all about.

After the service I headed home, changed clothes and began preparing for my own "new beginning" albeit, a rather mundane one in comparison. I pulled all of the furniture into the center of the room, covered it with tarps, removed switch plate covers, dusted, vacuumed and cleaned walls, taped the trim with painters tape and poured my paint into my bucket and began my transformation. I spent about six hours on the job, working in a house in which I refuse to turn on the heat...still she was hanging in there at 50 degrees, which my paint instructions indicated was the very lowest temperature with which I should work.

And as I worked, I thought. I thought of all of the things we do to make desired changes. And I thought about how much preparation is involved in doing things and doing them successfully. And I thought about the man I did not know and how he had prepared for the change he so desired. And how he never missed sharing the blessing with his wife.

"May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand."

I am the type who, once my mind is made up, is anxious to see things fall into place... I am the type who, as a child, always skipped the "preparations" and went directly to the creating the changes I wanted. And I was always rewarded with a product that was nice, but which could have been so much better, had I taken the time to prepare. As an adult, that anxious, impulsive child is still in me, and I must force myself to heed more reasonable, and responsible lessons I have learned over the years.

I did not know him, but there was a reason I was asked to sing and play for his memorial service today. His memory, shared by his adopted granddaughter, his memory, shared by his widow through the Irish Blessing.... well, it just filled my mind as I worked toward my own tiny little change... and the time it took to transform my living room seemed like nothing...

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