The call (or rather, the email) had gone out to all the men of the church: our help was wanted on a Thursday night to set up chairs and tables in preparation for a neighbor’s funeral the next morning. The eight of us that came set out rows of padded chairs in the large multi-purpose room, back of the chapel, in which were held church parties, youth athletic events, evening classes, and dances, providing also overflow seating for Sunday services. It became quickly obvious that the room’s carpet should first be vacuumed clean. But our vacuum cleaners would not work, one not picking up, the other dropping dirt out. Kevin and I turned over and dismantled a vacuum cleaner, finding a tight clog of dust and hair and cupcake sprinkles packed in the intake tube. Clearing the clog, the machine worked wonderfully well. I installed a new bag in a second vacuum, and discovered that the power roller would not engage until the intake tube was not pushed sufficiently tightly into the power unit. Soon it, too, did its job admirably. The deceased’s viewing had ended, the visitors had left, so I ventured out to vacuum the hallway. Long tables lined the hall, covered with white embroidered cloths, framed photographs, and a lifetime of her memorabilia, suddenly just stuff. I shuddered as I peeked into the viewing room and glimpsed white hands crossed and still in a white casket. And a thought struck me with force and with fright, that those hands could have been, or soon may be, the hands of my father, aged 87, or my mother, aged 83, and I will be sitting sad in that room while someone else vacuums the floors (perhaps after cleaning or repairing the vacuum cleaners) and rolls out the tables and sets out rows of pink padded chairs for the funeral the next morning at which I will weep and speak and say I know not what. But I fled the hallway, finding it sufficiently clean, and rejoined the seven others to finish our job. After the funeral, and after the burial, the family would return to gather and to sit on our chairs at our tables on our clean carpeted floor and consume the meal the church women, the local Relief Society, had prepared, a meal of sliced ham and shredded potato casserole topped with crushed corn flakes, and colorful Jell-O cubes or green creamy pudding with miniature marshmallows, and baskets of little rolls. But I will worry no more about all that today. Today I will worry about the next made-from-scratch meal, lately from Half Baked Harvest, perhaps Granny’s Meatballs, or Coq au Vin, or Potato Chip Chicken, and I will worry about being happy in this life of mine, brought to be by my choices, and the choices of others, a life of abundant blessings and plentiful trials, and long slow line-by-line learning.
(Pictured above, Tieghan Gerrard’s “Granny’s Meatballs” recipe from Half Baked Harvest, stewed in red wine and seasonings, topped with Mozzarella and Provolone, making a nice Sunday after-church dinner. Have I told you before, I love my iron?)