Mary Beth Writes

First written 2/18/2017

Yesterday was the funeral of Jack Jude. I met him off and on over the years we lived in Racine.  He was a smart, compassionate, wide-thinking, justice-for-all judge in Racine County. We were not close friends but we knew each other, and talked from time to time when we ran into each other in the Law Enforcement Center. Twice, when I encountered complicated legal snafus in regards to the guys I worked with, I called him. He would listen and then suggest options and strategies.

I know Jack’s unexpected death has rocked many lives.

Today is a funeral in Chicago, of a good friend’s aunt. This aunt was creative, sophisticated, laughed easily and had many adventures in her life. She provided a window to the world for her niece, my friend.

Last night late I received an email from another friend that her dad passed away yesterday. He was an awesome dad from the generation where so many of them were not. He was curious, could-fix-anything, was a loving and faithful family man and orchard farmer.

I woke this morning to a clear azure sky, a blue jay in the neighbor’s tree, a hawk streaking past our window, a squirrel tap dancing over our heads, the promise of a day of warm breezes.

There is something so impossible about death on a sunny day. When the world is gray and bleary, we can kind of take in what’s happening. But not on a day like these days; bursting with light and warmth.

My dad’s funeral was on a September day like today. Sunny, balmy, breezy, jarringly beautiful. After the funeral dozens of people came to our house to eat the food they all brought. Someone had sliced a huge turkey roasting pan of fresh peaches and then sprinkled them with brown sugar. I ate nothing but peaches that afternoon. Bowl after bowl of sweet, probably freshly-picked local peaches.

After a while my brother (who was just 19 that year) said he couldn’t stand to be inside anymore and was going out to work on the tool shed my dad had been building. Did I want to help?

The rest of that day we stayed outside, away from the mourners. Paul hammered and sawed. I sat cowboy style on an empty 50-gallon barrel, rocking from side to side. I was 14 years old, full of peaches, warmed by the sun, and cooled by breezes. It was gorgeous afternoon and I have never understood in words how that luscious memory would become my strongest memory of the day my father was laid to rest.

My theology teacher Paul Hessert once said, “Without silence, one could not have music.  It’s the quiet, empty spaces between the notes that turn sound into music.”

I think a funeral on a sunny day is something like that. An empty space that allows us to rest in the beauty that is around us.

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