Thursday, October 05, 2006

Today the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania buried four very young girls, killed for no apparent reason by the local milkman. Every message that community has sent to the outside world since then has been filled with love and grace. These plain people are an example to us all.

I don't remember doing anything else on that Monday. Cemetery, funeral home, church--it was a very busy morning, but the afternoon is a blank. Matthew had stayed home again, that I remember, because on Tuesday he decided to try going to school. By then we knew that the funeral would be on Friday, the visitation on Thursday, so this would really be his only opportunity to try breaking the ice. He was 12-1/2, in 7th grade. I drove him in, and told him that we would pick him up whenever he needed us to. Then I sat and talked with the principal of his middle school, a man who had known all four of my kids. It was a time of breaking the ice for me too. Mr. H told me he would not be able to come on either Thursday or Friday because on Saturday his daughter was getting married and his family needed him home. I approved--weddings are a nice, life-affirming activity--and I knew that some of his staff would come anyway to either or both. Then I left the school to run some errands, though I'll be darned if I can remember what they were.

By this point, exhaustion had set in. Every night I fell asleep by 11 or so, and slept 8 hours with no problem. I could now swallow my meals with a certain enjoyment, but pills of any sort made me choke so my morning ibuprofen was no more (my friend the physician-nun disapproved of me taking those anyway!). Shock had turned to a sort of slow slog toward the funeral.

I do remember one of those Tuesday errands. I had bought a purple, sort of eggplant, suit earlier in the fall to wear to a wedding. I didn't wear the jacket to the wedding, just a beautiful sweater and the purple skirt, because the sleeves were too long on the jacket. I knew the suit would work for the funeral but I needed to get the sleeves shortened. So I took it to our drycleaner. This is the only time I remember ever seeing the person who does alterations actually working there. I told her what I needed, she measured off the sleeves, and then I asked her when it would be done. She said Friday. I told her that I needed it for my son's funeral on Friday morning and as she took that in, she stood up and swept me into her arms and began praying. She was a tall woman, I expect from one of the Carribean islands, as she was dark and exotic with that lilting accent I love to listen to. She may have prayed for five minutes and then she let me go, told me the jacket would be ready sooner, and would not let us pay. In fact, my daugher Anna took something to be pressed a day later and when they heard her name wouldn't let her pay either. I am grateful to this day for the kindness of that woman, Marcella, and to the drycleaners for making this one thing easy.

Maria picked Matthew up for us in the middle of the day when he decided it had been enough.


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