Friday, April 25, 2008

4.25 RIP

Whenever you move, you leave some stories unfinished behind you; you pick up new stories in mid-write wherever you wind up. Some stories are easy to read - others, for whatever reason, are difficult to pick up in the middle and, unless you have an over-riding reason for prying, you never really know all the bits and pieces.

I do the Girl Scouts with K, J does the soccer with S. We didn't specifically set out to divide up Boys vs Girls, but it works out that way in practice. I was a Girl Scout, I know how they work. I'm not a jock and never have been. J was a jock, although Little League and crosscountry rather than soccer. We've gone with our strengths.

Since I don't do the soccer mom thing very often, I really don't know the parents, don't know the stories, don't know who to ask. I was a trifle startled when S first officially got on the soccer team, two years ago, to start receiving emails about ST. ST had a seizure last night, ST's in the hospital, ST's home again and doing better, we're taking up a collection for goodies for ST. Who's ST? Slowly it started getting pieced together. ST was the younger brother of one of the boys on the team, diagnosed almost four years ago (at seven?) with some form of cancer, either a brain tumor or metatasized to the brain. You see what I mean - we walked in almost halfway through the story - I never have found out exactly what the problem is. People on the periphery don't really remember exactly what the problem is, just It's Bad. It seems rude to query the people at the center of the drama, trying to get the cliff notes version to catch up. It really doesn't matter what the problem is: It's Bad.

ST's birthday was Tuesday. He turned 11. ST passed away on Wednesday morning. After some discussion, it was decided that S's soccer team would attend the calling hours at the funeral home. Most of the boys on the team have been together as a team since they were in first grade - six or seven? ST would have been four at the time. As with most pesty younger brothers, messing around on the sidelines, he would have been mostly beneath the notice of the lordly players. He's been ill for a third of their lives. They gave him encouragement, knew vaguely of his troubles, contributed to gifts for him, watched him in his wheelchair as his disease progressed, sympathized with his older brother when the subject came up.

S wanted to go; his team was going. Mom, have you made a contribution to the gift yet. Mom, don't forget. Mom, have you done this yet. Yes, It's done, I gave your coach the money. Yes, you can go, I'll take you over there, Yes, I know when they're meeting. Yes, they're right, you should wear your nice clothes. Calling hours were from 7 to 9, we were to meet at 7:40. The line was out the door, but we found the team. Almost all of them were there, uncomfortable in their best clothes, solemn with the Occasion, but so grown up in appearance and manners despite the slow pace and lack of amusements they would usually consider de rigeur. It took 45 minutes to wind our way in and upstairs, down the hall, through the maze of chairs setup for sitting and to guide the flow of traffic. The family had set up masses of pictures - ST as an infant, ST at every age since then, ST with his school mates, ST with his family. The boys studied these pictures carefully, silently.

ST's father was greeting each person; what a massive ordeal. He called NT over to see his teammates - it was great to see his face brighten. We spoke a few words, then headed out the door, leaving room for others to go in. The line when we left was as long as when we first got there.

A rite of passage for S: his first funeral-for-a-person-he-knew, however distantly. It follows for him on the footsteps of the deceased family cats, the flushed fish, those smaller events that help one learn how to cope with death and grief. A difficult thing, the other half of life.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

This is the toughest rite of passage there is. Who said after the first death there is no other?

My son made it to college before attending a funeral - and that was a 80+ yr old grandfather.