OT: Love on a cake plate

First, thanks to Guylty for writing and KatharineD for suggesting the tremendously comforting *ooof* and you all for the sweet comments and the “Memoriam” idea. My Armitage fantasies — when my brain’s been empty for a few moments — have been in overdrive. It’s great to be able to share this with all of you. Obscura came on behalf of the blog readers and gave me a big hug from herself and from all of you. Thanks, Obscura and everyone who was there in thoughts.

I know I need to write but I can’t think what.

I should know by now, after years of this, that you just open up a window and write.

But I still don’t know what to say.

Maybe it’s that I often write when I’m unable to cry, but today I cried and cried (and laughed) and cried?

Tomorrow I have to start writing the thank yous, and I’m hoping to be able to write here again.

I feel like I could write a Great Gatsby-esque list of all the people who visited us in the last two days. My high school English teacher who ran three times unsuccessfully for state superintendent of public instruction; the neighbor who hates my father and has been involved in a lot line / tree squabble with him for at least seven years; the one boy my mother dated before she fell in love with my dad, now an old man, divorced three times, whose nickname at school was “Full-Body Press”; my father’s 94-year-old godmother, who drove herself; — I could go on and on. We didn’t schedule enough visitation — we planned four hours and spent five and a half and the line had to be closed so church could start. As a consequence of seeing all these people, on top of my own reactions and things family members have said, a lot has been said to me in the last two days, and I’ve noted some of it, but it’s all too much to say here.

But here’s a Wisconsin story. A man who looked to be in his eighties or so came up to me in the line of guests and said, “I’m Harley Kopitzke, I’m so sorry for your loss,” and I said, “Thank you. Are you a relative?” (My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Kopitzke.) And he said, “Yes, on both sides, I’m your grandmother’s second cousin and your grandfather’s third cousin by marriage,” and I said, “Oh, you must take family connections very seriously,” and he said, “When I was baling hay for your grandfather, your mother was my tractor driver,” and somehow, that incongruous detail made me burst into tears. (My mother teased me my whole life that I never drove a tractor.) He said, “I was always picking on her because she couldn’t drive a curve tight enough. But I haven’t seen your mother since she was twelve,” and I said, still a little mystified, “It was very kind of you to come, then,” and he said, “Your grandfather hired me to help with chores when I couldn’t find other work, and when he couldn’t hire me, he invited me to eat with them. I missed his funeral because I was living in Minnesota, back then, but I wanted to make it up to him.”

The sermon (Romans 5:1-11) was about how suffering produces endurance, etc., and pastor started it by saying, “This was as usual a Mrs. Servetus challenge — in forty years in ministry I have never had to preach a sermon on this text.” I wonder if she had any idea. He put in a funny joke in discussing her endurance: “Think of it — she lived with Mr. Servetus for fifty-two years,” and the congregation all laughed, including my dad, but then pastor broke down on the pulpit while he was talking about my mother’s kindness to him. And he built the Sh’ma into the sermon, as an incidence of transforming love, which moved and stunned me.

I was having a hard time singing, but then I thought of my mother’s example and I was able to belt out the third hymn. After all — I thought — you know it by heart.

The church was full and Obscura said she thought she might not find parking. About a third of the congregation stayed for the luncheon; we underestimated the numbers for the meal by about thirty percent but the stalwart women of the Ladies’ Aid were obviously counting the guests during the service and rustled up a little more food and fed everyone. One of the standards of the Lutheran funeral in Wisconsin is a dessert plate with tiny squares of cookies, bars, and cake of different kinds. The squares are small both so you can’t refuse, but also so that you can try many different kinds.

In the receiving line, one of my mother’s friends said, “In all my days of putting together dessert plates for funerals at this church, I’ve never seen so many different kinds of sweets from so many different people. I think every single woman in the Ladies’ Aid promised something. There’s such an amazing variety. I’ve put away a plate for you to take one of each kind home. I’ll catch you after the lunch.”

The plate she gave me was put together like a mosaic.

“See how much we loved your mother?” she said, and beamed at me.

I said, “Mom would have picked out–”

and she said, “The lemon bar. I know, dear.”

And now I’m crying again.

~ by Servetus on September 4, 2013.

46 Responses to “OT: Love on a cake plate”

  1. And I’m crying too. In a good way. I can feel the warmth and the love all the way over here. What an amazing, difficult day.

    Here’s praying you start figuring out how to get everything into words.

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  2. Silly you, thinking you could post late and not have to face us till tomorrow! I hope the day was as it sounds, therapeutic and funny, sad but filling. What a wonderful community of people you hail from! So glad they’ve taken good care of you and yours this long weekend. Hug!

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  3. I remember my aunt’s funeral. I was beside her coffin, first row in church and can’t stop crying. All my rage, all my sorrow, all my desperation for her cruel destiny (Alzheimer) were getting out of my eyes. Couldn’t find rest. I cried and cried. Tears are necessary, are our way to surrend to emotions, feelings we cannot express otherwise. Let all the tears speak for you. I’m sure your mother will be listening. Hugs.

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  4. You never drove a tractor ,(((Serv)))?! O_O

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    • yeah, I know. It’s kind of a sore spot. My parents needled me mercilessly over this when I was a teen. All I can say is I grew up in the middle class — not a farmer’s daughter 🙂

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  5. … and now I’m teary-eyed too. Thank you for letting us ‘take part’ in the service. Your mother must have been a remarkable woman! xxx

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  6. I never know what to say during times like this but I’m sending you hugs in addition to the ones that Obscura gave. I love the story of your mother driving a tractor and how your grandfather would ask him to join them for dinner.

    When you’re ready the words will come. And when they do, we’ll be here. **hugs**

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  7. I have no words right now but I am glad Obscura was there and gave you a hug for all of us!

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  8. The really touching details are in the little stories you tell. And the simple lines. “The plate she gave me was put together like a mosaic. – See how much we loved your mother? she said” – that’s what made me choke. It tells the whole story in one tiny scene. The great esteem your mother was held in speaks from everything you have written here. I hope you will take comfort from it all.
    Your words will come back, soon. They are still there, in your head, but they need a bit of time to arrange themselves into meaning. Please take that time for yourself. There is a reason why they are not pouring out at the moment. Don’t fight it, go with it. Lots of love!

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  9. Oh, wow, your Mom was definitely a great and respected lady. What wonderful things you learned about her and your family. Hold those things closely in the dark hours to come. Later, when the words come back, you might use some of those memories to write great stories. But the words you have written have moved us all to tears so really they’re still in your head, just waiting for the right time.

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  10. I was born and raised a MS Lutheran. We had a saying about us. You can always tell a group of Lutherans together. If four of them get together someone with always bring a fifth. (For those of you wondering, liquor used to come in a measure of fifths) My mom and dad helped build our little Faith Lutheran Church. I mean in the true sense. Hammer and nails, built. After 55 years it’s still looks exactly the same. I could picture your Mother there, the Ladies Aid in the basement fixing the goodies, me hoping to sneak the Lemon bar (my favorite.) As the tears run down my face, I look out the window right now, I have a real tractor (not a lawn mower) I can visualize your mother in coveralls, blue and white plaid shirt, pigtails tied with blue ribbons, driving that big ol’ thing bouncing up and down in the seat. The wheels bigger than her. As you are loved by all of us, so is she loved by all of her friends. It sounds to me like the whole town is mourning, and it probably is. xoxoxo

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    • Another MS Lutheran sounding off here… this choked me up as well. No tractor here, but… lots of hugs from me. I can hear the organ and see the ladies bustling around in the basement. Any hot dish? Hot dish, sadly, seems to have virtually disappeared around here. I can’t even get my cream-of-mushroom-soup-casserole fix anymore. :}

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      • I wish you could have come over — we had a lot of hotdish. It was all delicious. I will never again doubt the gratefulness of the grieving for casseroles.

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    • yeah, I saw lots of pictures of her in overalls and pigtails while I was putting the collage together. But her mother always made them wear a dress to school — she and my aunt look a bit inconguous in the school pictures because almost all the other girls had overalls on.

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  11. The tears are falling in California too for a lady who was obviously greatly loved and who will be missed very much. It is these stories by which she will be remembered and that will be loved by generations to come. Thank you for sharing this with all of us and though the tears may flow long and hard there must be some comfort in knowing that your mother was such a wonderful person loved by so many. She is always going to be there with you in your heart and soul.

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  12. This really choked me up Serv- you could have been describing my mum. She’s 85, and a stalwart of her church community for over 50 years which very often involves rallying the ladies to ‘bring a plate’. I could just picture the scene, with the womenfolk quietly pulling together to feed everyone.
    It reminds me I need to have that difficult conversation about hymns and bible readings while my mum’s hale and hearty enough to tell me exactly what she wants- I’m so glad you had the chance to carry out your mum’s wishes, and know it was done right.

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    • yup. “bring a dish to pass” is the language here.

      I would *really* recommend having that conversation well before you need to. We were very clearly rushed. It was okay, and in a way it resolved some of the remaining religious issues between us, but I think it would have been better to do it much earlier.

      Then again, that means I should do it with my dad soon. Sigh. Maybe I can get my brother to step in.

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  13. A beautiful tribute to your mom. It must be a comfort to you to see how much she was truly loved by so many people.

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  14. Absolutely beautiful. I loved the image of the mosaic plate. All the small tableaux and details in this really brought us to your side for your mom’s service. We’re there for you in spirit, my dear. xoxoxoxoxoxxoxox and thanks to Obscura for being our hug-proxy.

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  15. So much love: it is a gift. Now take a deep breath.

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  16. As others have said, I have tears in my eyes after reading this. I remember from my dad’s funeral how much all of those stories people told meant at the time. Even now they continue to be a comfort in moments when I miss him. I hope the stories about your mother will do the same for you. I’m so glad there was such a show of love for your mother and family. Continued prayers and hugs are coming your way. How wonderful that Obscura was able to be there and hug you for all of us.

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    • it is really true. When the visitation started I was dreading it horribly, and it turned out to be just the opposite, really wonderful.

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  17. This brought tears to my eyes, too – but the good kind. This day was all I hoped it would be for you – some tears, some laughs, memories, good stories and further demonstration ( as if you needed it) of how special and loved your mother was. Bless your pastor for including in his sermon something special just for you.

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  18. Ahh… this is a wonderful post. Loved the Harvey Kopitzke story – this is how we live – by our internal attachments to how people make us feel – whether your grandfather, your mother, or Richard Armitage’s performances.

    I’m glad to hear you cried and cried and cried. I learned quite a bit one summer I spent babysitting my niece (she was 14 months) – I watched her cry a vengeance in a car seat during a trip – it was an awesome thing witnessing her frustration – then she passed out and fell asleep. When she woke up, she was completely happy and refreshed again. It made me wonder – hmmm, why don’t we do that as adults anymore? 😉

    Thinking of you and sending you lots of love and prayers.

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  19. ((Serv)), thank you for sharing this journey with us. It has been incredibly moving to read about your amazing mother and the lovely relationship you had with her. My heart goes out to you. Please know that I am thinking of you and praying for peace and comfort. ❤

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  20. Servetus, thank you ever so much! How could you say you have nothing to write as you come up with all this wonderful touching little anecdotes. It is mostly this occasion that people tend to give a bit more away of themselves a they usually do and start to tell stories, that sometimes maybe have been around all the time, but often have never been really told openly. This is what makes this (funeral) gatherings in many cases so precious. I remember when we had the funeral ceremony for my mother 5 years ago, that I was surprised to see all those people, that I haven’t seen in decades (as I have moved away when I was 18) and lots of them came forward to say something special about my mother. It is a bit of a glimpse into parts of their lives, that we do know nothing about. It has been hidden to us and we never had the chance or we missed the chance to genuinely perceive it.
    Thanks as well to Obscura, for attending the ceremony, and giving some additional hugs on behalf of us all. Strangely enough this gives me a feeling of not being so far away. 😉

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  21. Lovely touching post. Thank you for sharing it with us. I am crying! You got me at the lemon bars.

    I am sure your mother was extremely proud of you. God bless.

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  22. I have to thank you so much, Servetus, you´re grieving and I´m still crying about my mother´s death more than eleven years ago…
    Y

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  23. Sorry, it was a mistake, please delete my comment

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  24. Servetus, so glad your mother had such a beautiful farewell. Take care of yourself, now.

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  25. Servetus, Thank you sharing your thoughts on your mom’s funeral. The church ladies cooking and bringing food for funerals makes me think of my aunt and all the cooking she now does for the church ( she also is a Lutheran). She retired from 32 years as a school cook but just can’t give it up.

    Take care and let the memories of your mom help you though this time. Thinking of you and your family. (((HUGS))) Crying is good, so just let it come as you need.
    Also thank you Obscura for giving you a hug.

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  26. Servetus, thank you for this beautiful story, which tells us as much about your Wisconsin community as about your mother’s farewell. I have to say (and don’t take this the wrong way), they know how to put the “fun” in funeral. What lovely, kind and thoughtful people they are. It reminded me again of what we of little faith lose when we choose to be atheist — the caring camaraderie of members of a church or temple. I used to rail against having been baptised Anglican, and it took me decades to realise what the baptism really meant: I was being welcomed into the British community of Hong Kong, which in those days was centred on St John’s Cathedral.
    I am glad your mother’s fellow Lutherans are there for you and your family. I’d love to know more about them in your words. Perhaps you should write a novel or a screenplay. That fabulous elm tree deserves a starring role!

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    • that was a great pun. It was a really moving experience and I wouldn’t have missed it even though I was dreading it ahead of time.

      My own funeral won’t be like this — for one thing, I won’t live within the same 50 mile radius for all but two years of my life. My friends are scattered all over the place. She really benefited from that community which was inseparable from her life and faith. Those of us who “choose our allegiances” have to find other experiences, I suppose.

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  27. Thank you for such a wonderful picture of your mother’s funeral. it took me to place I thought was long gone. I can almost taste the lemon bars. Congratulations to your mom on a life well-lived. She will be missed.

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  28. Your stories of your Mother’s funeral are very touching. My heart goes out to you at this sad time. Hugs and Love!

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  29. You’re not the only one who’s crying now… wonderful post!

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  30. I’ve cried many times while reading your posts about your Mom and wondered if she had any idea people from around the world were thinking about and praying for her and her family. If she didn’t know then, she probably knows now.

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    • I thought / worried about that a lot, too, sloan. I wonder if she knows about this now. I hope that if she does she understands. If she’s watching she sees everything from a different perspective now.

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  31. And you said you couldn’t think what to write. Would that we could all boast about such a woman as your mother.

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  32. I know, I keep saying basically the same thing, but I mean it every time. It’s such a comfort from the distance of almost a month to look back at all these dear comments. Thank you all.

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  33. […] wondered last year and wonder this year why it’s not raining. The universe should mirror my emotions. Why does […]

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