You learn a great deal about people when things are at their worst. Folks can surprise you, in ways both good and bad, and that is the parting lesson from my mother's death. Many of the people who have known me seemingly forever, I am almost ashamed to say "my" people, were virtually non-existent if not outright dismissive or hostile. Others were exactly as I remember them as a kid - warm, friendly people who would do anything for you. And a group of former co-workers who had known me for all of 3 1/2 years were far more comforting than I could rightly expect, with e-mails and calls of condolence, even a couple of cards. It is almost funny; the ones from whom you expect the most do the least, and those with the least connection wind up doing the most.
As services go, I think we gave Mary a nice sendoff. We did not waller in misery and maudlin overwraught emotion, though my brother broke down a time or two. Then again, I was there when mom died and he was not, so I had already had the opportunity to get the immediate grief out of my system. We chose to focus on the happy times, and my bride and step-daughter put together a wonderful collage of a smiling mom that dated back nearly 50 years. It was nice to see her visibly enjoying the moments captured in those pictures.
It was also nice to see a couple of neighbors from way back, including my first little league coach, a very nice man whose son and I spent a lot of afternoons riding bikes and doing kid stuff. And, a couple that used to live right next to us came in from Montgomery, great folks whose son was my brother's best friend back in the day. I think mom would have been happy to see people like that come to remember her. There were some of dad's faculty friends, people whose kids both of us went to school with and one gentleman who was one of dad's students. He came in part for himself as his wife is now in year 12 of Alzheimer's; I can honestly say I know how he feels and hope a guardian angel looks out for his and his wife.
The disappointing aspect came from a few fellow Greeks, not all of them, but some who saw fit to say nasty things about me, my brother, and my wife for the past several months, as though we had conspired to make my mom ill. My brother's eulogy made mention of us doing the best we could under trying circumstances; I am confident we did that and anyone who disagrees, well, they can kiss our asses. They have become people I never again have to speak to.
I hope mom is now at peace, that what my brother and I had to say let her know that we loved her and gave her comfort in knowing she raised two pretty decent men. I appreciate the old neighbors and friends who came to pay their respects, and the one old friend who called with condolences but was unable to attend due to her husband's failing health. I hope someone watches over the two of them, too. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I was to hear from my old co-workers, a solid group of people whose company I miss and whose reaching out reminds one what friends are all about. And now we move on, for there is no other option. It has been the longest of years and now comes a new chapter. We'll see what it holds.