Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Use the Fork that God Gave You

My mother-in-law, Edna Kohn, died Saturday, June 26, 2010.

I could leave it like that, but you'd only get a small taste of how abrupt it felt when the news, hours old by then, arrived to my ears. She had been "gone" for hours, but for me it happened right then and there.

What happened after that is what this post is all about. As abrupt as it is, as stealth as it is...okay let's just say it...as inevitable as it is...death is all too common and every day to carry this much emotional weight. The burden we bear is not that it happens, it's the damned permanence of it. There are no mulligans, or do-overs or second tries like in "real life." They die. We live with it.

But there is beauty there. When we sit around and talk about the things they said, the familiar way they smelled, and the sounds of their laugh--their tragic end becomes our magic wand. Like wizards we are given the power to reach back in time to capture memories and bring them to the present day. We are given a precious gift, the chance to become better people so when we die (gulp) we, too, will be well-remembered.

Edna had many, many expressions, but one that really stands out in my memory is "Use the fork that God gave you." What a blessing to be fumbling around like the Duchess of Dorkshire with ice tongs and get this very sensible advice to pick up the cube with your fingers.

She also said, in a very generic one-size-fits-all way, "Don't bother. People don't notice." As it happens, this is not true in every case, but if it helps you overcome a barrier that is occupying your efforts well out of proportion to your expected result, it is good advice nonetheless. Put it this way, if dinner is late and people are starving because you are piping sweet potato puree into hollowed out baby pumpkins, it's may be a bit of a nudge but it fits like a hug.

"Make a decision every day... Don't eat garbage... Lie down in the afternoon...around four... Find something you "do"...it doesn't have to be knitting, just something to keep your hands busy... Sit. Relax. Have coffee... What can I get for you? Come. I have something..."

PS You can forget your prepared remarks, you're going home with a scarf.