In the wee hours of Friday morning, when I was looking through my photo archives for a picture for Photo Friday, there was one photo I wished I could use. After my mother’s memorial service in August, we set up the tripod at the restaurant and took tons of family photos, because it’s so rare when my entire family is together, especially including Tom’s side of the family, too. Probably the only time that ever happened was our wedding.
Lynne pretty much took on camera duty, and I suggested a shot with the entire group of my Cochrane nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews (only my great-nephew Steven couldn’t be there). Josh was holding his daughter, and when my nephew Aaron lifted up his second cousin, Lynne teasingly said, “Daniel, pick up your kid,” and Daniel did. The only thing is, Daniel’s son is fifteen and is as tall as he is, and everyone cracked up. It would have been a great photo for “Spontaneous,” but since Lynne was the one who took it, I couldn’t use it–though I can still share it.
On the left, my niece Gina and her daughter Morgan. Next to her, my nephew Josh holds his daughter, Amelia. In front of them is Josh’s stepdaughter, Cassidy. My niece Sarah is bending down to hold on to her daughter Rome, who’s standing next to Sarah’s son, Camden. Behind them are my nephew, Daniel, holding his son Dave, and on the end is my nephew Aaron holding Sarah’s younger son, Evan.
It took some work, but Josh finally coaxed a smile out of Amelia for the camera.
I had put my mother’s urn in a wooden box. We left the box open in my sister’s motel room so anyone could add anything they wanted to. Even with a bunch of little kids running around, not one of them ever took anything out. The day before, when I found a rock in my sister’s bed after the kids had been playing in it, Gina said, “Morgan! Empty your pockets.” Imagine the tiny pockets in a little girl’s shorts, but she must have taken two dozen rocks from her grandfather’s driveway out of those pockets. One of them went in this box. At one point, I was moving the blanket around and found a tiny ball placed lovingly in the folds of my mother’s favorite blanket that was cradling the urn. I don’t know what else the little ones put in there, but my nieces and Dalyn, Amelia’s mother, put in family photos. And if you look carefully, you may see the cigarette my sister added, because we’d never send Mother anywhere without an emergency smoke.
The thing about my family is that we always laugh a lot, even on the saddest of occasions. My parents both had a great sense of humor (although my father told the lamest jokes), and our family stories tend to focus on the funnier side of things. One of the images from that day that moves me most is Tom’s father holding an umbrella over Jeff against a light drizzle as he did the service. There were several times we were in tears, but when I look at this photo, all I can think about is how we giggled when someone said Josh looked like he’d stepped out of Men In Black.
As I think I mentioned before, Jeff suggested that if we wanted to, we could carry on an old symbolic custom of saying rest in peace by dropping a handful of dirt into the grave. My brother went to move the wheelbarrow closer, and he couldn’t budge it. Of course, he immediately got jeers from my sister and me about getting older. Fortunately, his son Daniel was able to do the job.
I’ve written on here before about my Uncle Gerald, who was the closest to my mother in age and her favorite brother (and the uncle who spoiled me, encouraged me to write, and gave me Dr. Neil, the teddy bear I still have, when I was in the hospital at age three). No matter where my family traveled, she and Gerald kept up a voluminous correspondence. My cousin Bruce has her letters to his father, and I have Gerald’s letters to her. This is Bruce.
At one point, I glanced into the grave and saw a penny on the wooden box. I wasn’t sure who’d dropped it in. Later, Bruce told me that whenever my mother and his father talked after a long time apart, Gerald began the conversation with, “A penny for your thoughts,” so Bruce was the source of the penny. I thought that was so sweet, but when I tried to tell my sister later, I ruined the story by bursting into tears.
As you may also recall, someone stole the flowers I left on my father’s grave a few days before the service. Tom’s parents gave us a beautiful spray of fall flowers, and in the middle of them was a rose. I always gave my mother roses, and I was determined that no one was going to steal this last rose from her.
This photo makes me laugh because my mother often complained that we ganged up on her. (Of course we did! It’s one of the rules in the children’s handbook!) If she could see this photo, she’d say, “There you are, throwing dirt on me and laughing about it.” But in fact, my sister was saying we’d be in trouble for getting dirty, and I was reminding her that Mother used to quote her own mother about kids: “Every child has to eat a peck of dirt.” We were also remembering a certain home movie, in which I’m placidly making mudpies on my grandfather’s porch, oblivious to the fact that my brother is coming along behind me with a shovel and destroying them one by one. And there he is, a shovel at hand.
I have no idea who was making Tom smile in this photo, but my mother would be saying, “You’re laughing because you’re never going to have to move my furniture again, aren’t you?”
The grrrls: Gina and Morgan, Debby and Amelia, me, Sarah and Rome,
and Amelia’s beautiful mother Dalyn with Cassidy.
Both my parents were the babies of their families (like me!), and my father was several years older than my mother. So his niece Elenore was the same age as my mother. Actually, my cousin said that my mother liked to point out that Elenore was older, but I think by only a couple of months. (You see where I get this “thirty-five” nonsense now, don’t you?) After my father died, my mother and Elenore became even better friends and traveling buddies, going on several trips together, including to the Bahamas and throughout the western U.S. They had a blast.
Those of you who have read A Coventry Christmas may remember the group of friends named Elenore, Dorothy, Lois, and Arliss. Elenore was named for my cousin, Dorothy was named for my mother, Lois was named for my mother’s best friend in Salt Lake City, and Arliss is my mother’s sister closest in age to her. My parents, with Arliss and her husband, used to travel around the U.S. in an RV after my father retired. Arliss is the only surviving girl of fourteen children, but she wasn’t able to come to the service because she’s in poor health. For the same reason, my mother’s only surviving brother, John, couldn’t be there.
In this photo, Elenore is in the front:
On the far right is my father’s niece, Rachel. She’s the person I idolized when I was a little girl, and I think I’ve written before that her husband, Charles, was the man I vowed I’d marry when I grew up. My sister says she was the one who’d planned to marry him. To keep us from arguing, Rachel graciously let Charles stand between Debby and me in this photo. Undoubtedly that’s the reason I have that stupid grin on my face.
I’m crazy-protective of my in-laws’ privacy, so I won’t be giving their names. But I love them so much, and having them there meant everything to me. One of Tom’s sisters brought tons of homebaked goodies to put in my sister’s room so everyone would have things to nibble on. Another of his sisters stood with an umbrella over me after almost everyone else had left the cemetery, while I watched the guy come to refill the grave and Tom’s brothers-in-law helped him take down the canopy. His other sister is always a person I enjoy talking to, and I adore all our nieces and nephews, one of whom is our godson. Tom’s oldest niece and my nephew Aaron, though they are old enough to hang with adults, took the initiative to sit at the kids’ table and kept them busy at the restaurant so the rest of us didn’t have to worry about them. Tom’s entire family has always been supportive of me in everything I do, including my writing, and they’ve understood why I haven’t been able to travel to see them the last few years. I’m so lucky to have married into this family.
The day after the service, my sister and I returned to the cemetery.
This time, the flowers were still there.
Thank you, Lindsey, for the camera, and Lynne, for using it so well.