Yesterday was a weird day. A deeply sad day, as well. But very, very weird. Yesterday, I went to my birth mother's funeral.
It was a lovely ceremony, very Rebecca. It was in her house. She was there in her "green burial" coffin. A set of (non-toxic) crayons sat atop the coffin, so people could write messages to her, before they placed her in the ground. It was a pretty ceremony. There were dogs and kids running around, and music and poetry, a double dutch song, as well as the normal Jewish prayers. People spoke of her smarts, her kindness and her love of arts. It was beautiful. And exactly as she had planned.
She got suddenly sick last May. One day this vibrant, bright and busy woman was having trouble with her words. Her friends were worried she was having a stroke so they rushed her to the hospital. A stroke might have been treatable. Stage four brain inoperable brain cancer is not. When I went to visit in early October, she could no longer lift her head, keep her eyes open, or speak, so it seemed as if the end was coming soon - but then, a near miracle happened. She suddenly was able to speak, and said to her daughter, Nicole, "I feel better. I need another MRI." She was indulged with a new MRI, but no one really gets better from glioblastoma multiforme. Except she did. Well, not really better, but the tumors had shrunk enough so that she had three months of lucidity and mobility. She had a big seventieth birthday party in November. She visited with friends, made plans to begin a poetry class at the local library and even started to plan to go back to her beloved pottery wheel. She talked about seeing the first asparagus shoots coming up in the garden. And she planned her funeral and burial down to the last detail.
Three weeks ago, whatever cancer miracle had taken hold, stopped. She wouldn't quite get to see another spring in her garden.
She was a very kind and lovely person and I am so glad I got to know her. We met the year I turned forty, so we had a bit over a decade to reacquaint ourselves. She was only eighteen years older than I, and we were both always very careful not to overstep. She was like a kooky older cousin. Always full of interesting stories and small but intriguing presents for the kids; a two-bowled, hand carved wooden spoon, a Russian Army officer hat, ballet slippers from the Bolshoi, a flower pin.....She lived in Russia until moving back to the States in 2010. Then she built her perfect little house outside Boston and settled down in it to enjoy her later years with her art and her friends and her family. That was the deeply sad part of the day. Seventy years just isn't enough time.
But it was also a very weird day. It is very, very strange to be in a room where everyone knows who you are, and you don't know almost anyone. And especially at the kind of event where you really don't want to stand out. It was the first time in my life that I was anywhere with more than one or two people I am biologically related to. Which I understand is not a very common experience for most people. Here there were bio-cousins, and aunts and uncles. They were all very kind and I felt very welcomed. But it was a little overwhelming. I hid a bit in the back row. Wanting to pay my respects, but not wanting to get in the way.
I'm still wrapping my head around lots of things. I've lived through two other parent funerals, and this wasn't that. Rebecca was a wonderful woman, and I'm so glad she was part of my life, but burying a bio-parent is different than burying a parent. Deeply emotional and yet deeply weird.
My brain had a hard time keeping up with the day. I't's also weird to have now lost three parents to three different brain diseases; my mom had a stroke, my dad had an aneurism and now Rebecca to brain cancer. It seems just a little unfair. A little tilted too much to the head. My bio father was in a car accident in the early eighties, so at least that is that.
It was very hard for me to find my center on a through the looking glass kind of leap day. I was out of normal space and time. It seemed appropriate for the odd day anyway. The only word I could hang on to for the day was weird.