Wednesday, December 11, 2013

For The Record - My Brother Adam’s Memorial Service

December 6, 2013
For the Record
Adam’s Memorial Service

This was the Friday that we held the memorial for our brother Adam.
The day, well it was gray.  The rain was misty, and drippy and steady.
The service was being held in the Chapel at the Memorial Park.

Ross and I and Dolores were among the first to arrive.

The chapel was icy cold.  There were chairs set up and a small stand covered with a cloth.  I guessed that’s where the container holding Adam’s ashes would be displayed.

My brother-in-law, Mike, Marie’s husband, put together a poster filled with a collage of photos of Adam.  It was set up at the front of the room.

Ross and I brought 24 roses and we placed one on each chair.

One by one the others began to arrive.  I noticed how everyone kind of shivered and tried to wrap their coat tighter around them when they entered the icy room.

I watched from the front of the room as this family began to gather and greet one another.

The rituals of the greetings were touching.  They began with a warm smile of recognition as each person approached the other.   Next, at almost the exact same time, they would reach out and grab each other’s hands, and lean in for a kiss on the cheek.  Finally they would pull one another in close for a lingering hug.

Personally, for me, a hug is the most comforting.  A tight, warm close hug says, “I’ve got you.”

When it was time to start to service, my nephew Jacob, Marie’s son, asked everyone to take a seat.

Jake is a missionary student.  This was his first time leading a memorial service .  He talked about how important mourning is.  He explained that grief  should not be hidden, but worn publicly.  He added that a display of bereavement is a tribute to the love of the ones we have lost.
Jake showed an outstanding level of maturity and understanding as he guided us through the service.

Then we each had an opportunity to speak.

I along with my brother Ray, and my sisters Johanna and Marie each gave emotional testimonials and remembrances acknowledging the shared bond with our brother.

After the ceremony, we filed out of the of the chapel.  I suppose that it was fitting, almost cliche, that it we melded into a procession of bobbing, shared umbrellas as we made our way over to the gravesite.

At the end of a prayer, led by Jacob, we each said our good-byes and placed our rose on the grave.

Adam requested that he be buried with my parents.  His remains now rest with my mother.

We then all gathered at a local family restaurant called “Confectionately Yours" , not far from the cemetery.
Although we were a group of 32 unexpected guests, and there was an initial few minutes of panicky confusion, the staff was very accommodating and even set up their private room for us.

Due to circumstances, primarily  financial, Adam did not have all of the trappings of what we have come to expect or what we might, I suppose call a traditional funeral.  There was no viewing at a funeral home,  no flowers, no limos, no incense or church mass.

But, I believe that our remembrance of Adam was intimately more special.  Those who participated were truly his loved ones.

This is what I said when it was my turn to speak:

For My Brother Adam
We are gathered here today because we have an undeniable bond.  A resilient thread that ties us together.   There are times when that connection is stretched to it’s thinnest, but it does not break.

The fibers of my relationship with Adam were spun and intertwined together forming a  textured fabric, embroidered with strands of dark, bold and intense colors.

Over the years, anguish and anger began to place an immense amount of strain on our ties, causing them to fray so badly around the edges that I was convinced it had unraveled beyond repair.

I held on to the anger for a long time.

Then one day, I think it was about five years ago,  Johanna told me that she decided she wanted to reach out to Adam.  Frankly, I was quite surprised. I couldn’t understand it.  “Why?” I wanted to know.

"He’s a human being who is struggling.  He needs help. He’s my brother.” She said.

 I remember thinking to myself, “Wow baby sister, you are something else.”

Her expressions of compassion and acts of kindness opened up my mind and heart a little that day.

But I continued to remain separated from him.

Then, about six months ago, we learned that Adam was very ill.  Johanna had been notified that he was in a hospital, and comatose.

Without hesitation, everyone immediately came to be with our brother.

Everyone, except for me, that is.

He surprised us, by what I suppose was his shear will to live and recovered.  But his diagnosis was dire.

As Adam’s health declined, Elaine became his main caregiver and advocate.  She would frequently call me to tell me about the time she spent with him.

I know it was difficult for her, but she told me that he was like a child.  He needed help.  He was her brother.

Her acts of kindness and displays of compassion, opened my mind and heart more and more each day.

As the cloudy haze of anger, fear and stress eased, I was able to see my brother more clearly.

And then one day I called him.

And then one day I went to see him.

He was the fifth remnant  in our sometimes ill fitted, six piece, patch work quilt.
Even though he and I were separated age wise by almost a generation, we shared some of the same challenging childhood experiences.

Those experiences ultimately gave shape to our beings, who we became.

I don’t know…maybe it was birth order, circumstances, or forks in the road that may have led us in opposite directions, but our hurts and insecurities were really the same.

Each time I would visit with him,  I re-discovered that he had a great sense of humor.  It was similar to mine.  Dry, sarcastic and sometimes mocking, but funny, really funny.

He was smart. Not only street smart, because he was that.  He knew things about any number of topics and could speak intelligently about them.

In his own way, I know he loved us, we were always his family.

He expressed this best in a card he sent to me after Joe passed away.  At the time, I guess we were both at our lowest.

This is what he wrote:

“Dear Lynda,
I love you and my heart goes out to you.  Those kids are like my kids, the closest thing I have to my own kids.  I pray every night for you.  If there is anything I can do just tell me.

I am filled with grief for Adam.  As I reflect on who he was, I regret that I did not see him differently until there wasn’t enough time to appreciate him.
I’m sure we all did this.

When we spoke of Adam we would talk about his unusual behaviors and his uncontrollable addictions. We would cluck our tongues, shake our heads, sigh and whisper, “What a shame.”

We would ask, “Why couldn’t he change?  Why couldn’t he be more like us?   What a shame.”

But, I think, what we may have failed to see was the potential creativity that hid behind the craziness.

Our view was obstructed by the ridged armor he wore to protect the soft gauzy layers that cushioned his hurts.

He emanated a bristly and prickly electric like energy.   I suppose that if I were able to hear that energy it might sound like a discordant tune he would play on his guitar.

Perhaps if his undeveloped talent had been recognized and discovered, his dormant rock star could have emerged.

So imagine this.  Consider the possibility that instead of the small group here today, there were red carpets, limos, frantic paparazzi and throngs of Adam’s fans filling this chapel and beyond. 

I will miss you my brother.
I am stirred by the loving family members who came to be with us that day.

Aunt Edie and her grandson Dominic
Our cousins Ginny and Ray

Aunt Nancy and cousin Jimmy
Uncle Bobby and Aunt Pat
Aunt Ronnie and Uncle George
Aunt Dolores

Ross and I
Jen, Derek, and Jackson
Anne and Domani
Ken D

Elaine and Al

Ray and Patty

Johanna, Steve

Marie and Mike

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