The final truth
It used to be that “going home” – returning to my home town — was a fairly casual affair that didn’t take much planning. Call a relative, say “We’re coming”, and someone would open their doors to us. I went home to see my folks, to see the ocean, to trigger memories: streets and houses, sounds, smells; the wind and the marsh.
These last trips, however, were not about visiting. They were about saying goodbye — winding up a life. And with the end of that life, the thread that connected me directly to my place of birth, to the sweetest childhood memories (in a childhood that was in desperate need of them) was broken.
My father is gone, the last of my direct relatives, and the idea of going home has a new significance. Making the trip must be for a reason other than to visit the folks, because there are no more folks to visit. It must be planned as if I was a tourist. “Home” is not where family is; it is where family was.
In the wake of someone’s death, all the mundane, routine minutiae of a life suddenly loom large. So much to be done all at once: cut off the newspapers, telephone, cable and internet, cell phone; switch the gas and electrical accounts over, stop the insurance policies…oh yeah, I’d better get to the post office before it closes to stop the mail! All that ammo upstairs that Syd didn’t take when he took the firearms must be delivered to the police. But wait — okay, here is a loaded rifle under the couch cushions and a handgun hidden in a book. Um…!!
For all that, it strikes me that dying, well-known in a small town, is not a bad deal for your loved ones. The paperwork was easy (relatively), people were accessible and eager to help. Government issues were handled largely by the funeral home. Only the customer-service representatives of the large nation-wide companies were a bit balky, but they are tied to scripts after all. There might be some merit to all of this activity; one has little time to sit and mourn. At least, during office hours.