The Salt of The Earth

This is such bullshit, I think as I’m picking out flowers. I don’t want to be doing this. I have zero interest in these lilies and hydrangea and fucking hell why are they out of peonies?! Oh – it’s no longer peony season? Okay okay fine.

I’m planning a party for my dead mom. My mom that has now been dead for an entire year. 365 days. And I’m planning a God damn party. Fuck this.

***

When you’re planning a funeral for a loved one, you assume that the day will automatically be grey and wet and somber to match the mood perfectly. At least that is how I had always pictured my mother’s funeral.

Who knows why but I used to think about it a lot. Sometimes I swear I’ve always known that I would lose her before I should have. In the early visions, it always took place in the church I grew up in, and my hair was slicked back into a chic chignon, dyed blonde for the occasion, and I wore massive Chanel sunglasses inside to hide my puffy eyes that would be of course be nearly swollen shut from all of the crying I did.

I also knew that I obviously was going to have to give some sort of grand performance at the Fantasy Funeral, as we shall dub it. In my mid-teens I decided that I would lock myself in a room with a piano teacher for 3 days and surprise everyone (including myself) with a rousing rendition of  “When I Think of You” in the style of Miley Cyrus. And then when I realized how unrealistic it is that I’d learn to play a full song on the piano in three or four days was, I decided that someone would just have to accompany me. The song changed to Vanessa Carlton’s “Home” over the years. But there was always involved in some sort of tear-jerking, heartfelt performance.

….can you tell I’m a Leo?

I think this stemmed from her telling me when I was like 15 that when she died I was required to sing Amazing Grace at the funeral. Psh As If.

OK so YES to answer your question I know it’s SUUUUPER fucked up and dark of me have been picturing/planning my mom’s funeral since I was a teenager. But I would legit get absolutely apoplectic thinking that this was going to happen one day! AND GODDAMMIT IF IT DID I WAS GOING TO BE PREPARED! 

LOL I was so the opposite of prepared.

***

They say when you have something traumatic happen your memory blocks out a lot of the following days/weeks/hours following the event. (IDK who the hell “they” is. Probably the same people who performed that grape surgery.) I feel like that’s pretty accurate.

One year ago today mom died. Mom died right in front of me. I was holding her hand. Eating a breakfast sandwich. We were watching shark week. I say “we” like she was watching too, but of course she was already in something resembling a coma.

Fucking hell my mom died a year ago today.

I remember everything about that morning. I remember packing everything in the hospital room into our cars and saying one final goodbye. I remember getting in the car and being afraid to drive home.

What I don’t remember is much of the week following her death. I know that there was the funeral to plan. I had known that there was a funeral to plan for weeks at that point. But it’s still this ‘far off’ event that you don’t really truly have to deal with until they die. And then you’re like Oh Shit I Guess I Have To Do This Whole Funeral Thing Now.

I remember driving to the funeral home the next day to arrange for the cremation. I don’t know what we talked about in there. I know I told them we weren’t having a visitation, and that was final.

I remember driving to the church to meet with Michael the priest to pick out music and plan the ceremony. The music was very important to mom. She had specific hymns that she wanted to be sung.

I remember the obsession over what I was going to wear and buying a dress at Anthropologie.

But that’s it. I know her funeral was on a Thursday. And it was the most beautiful, perfect summer day.

***

That morning I was stressed out over what jewelry I should wear. So ridiculous, I know. I kept going back and forth between a large David Yurman topaz pendant and this small delicate Meira T heart necklace I had gotten her for Christmas a few years earlier. She died wearing that necklace. It ended up seeming like it needed to go with me to the church.

I remember my best friend Emmie telling me I couldn’t wear my comfy bra with the Fish Dress because the band stuck out in the back. I remember the sheer determination I woke up with that morning to be able to read the poem I had picked out for her. I remember getting in the car and thinking how am I going to drive to this thing when all I want to do is run so far away from everything that I don’t ever have to look back. And I remember getting to the church and standing in the hot July sun waiting for them to unlock the doors for us.

I was obsessed with the flowers. They needed to be perfect. I spent 45 minutes inside the chapel rearranging them to get them just right.

I remember seeing the program for the first time. I remember the feeling of disbelief… that program can’t possibly say in Loving Memory of Laura Maguire Hoke. That isn’t right. That can’t be. I can’t be at my mother’s funeral. This just isn’t possible I’m only 25 years old for God’s sake.

I remember my roommates walking in, just off the plane from New York. I remember the way the looked at me and how they held me and cried with me and laughed with me and told me how beautiful the chapel was.

I remember greeting the other family and friends as they came in. And then all of a sudden it was time to take our seats and for the service to begin. And I remember praying so fervently for someone to give me the strength to get through this next hour and FUCK PLEASE LET be able to read my poem. And then I remember having a slight breakdown that they didn’t invite the choir and that they was no organ master or pianist to accompany us which meant we all had to sing a capella. UGH THIS IS NOT HAPPENING, I thought. And then I realized it was and there was nothing I could do about it at that point, and as the tears came, so did laughter.

Our dear friend Debbie gave the eulogy. Debbie is Emmie’s mom, and she was the priest at the church I grew up in. She and my mom were very close from the moment the family moved to Louisville when I was a kid. She moved to South Carolina several years ago. When I called her and told her the news that mom was truly dying at the beginning of July, she immediately got off the phone with me and booked a flight up here. And she immediately said yes when I asked her to do the funeral. There was no one else we could imagine doing it.

I will forever kick myself for not writing down everything about the day of the funeral after it happened. But you know, A) there was wine to be had and B) I was just so not in the mood to sit and write and relive it so soon after it had happened.

I don’t remember much of it, but I know that Debbie’s eulogy was perfect. Oh God it was just wonderful. She talked about the phrase “The Salt of the Earth,” and how that just was my mother. She talked about her heart and her style and her love for my brother and I and the way she lived her life… She told a story about how she was talking to one of her daughters while writing the sermon, and she asked her, “If you had to assign a song to Laura, what would it be?” And without missing a beat, her daughter said, “She’s a Rainbow”

Have you seen her dressed in blue?
See the sky in front of you
And her face is like a sail
Speck of white so fair and pale
Have you seen a lady fairer?
She comes in colors ev’rywhere
She combs her hair
She’s like a rainbow
Coming, colors in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colors
Have you seen her all in gold?
Like a queen in days of old
She shoots colors all around
Like a sunset going down
Have you seen a lady fairer?
She comes in colors ev’rywhere
She combs her hair
She’s like a rainbow
Coming, colors in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colors
It was perfect.
My aunt Nicole gave her reading which was flawless, and then Jane, mom’s favorite student from her years teaching Sunday school and confirmation at church gave her reading. It was finally time for me to get up and read the poem and fucking hell I was going to read this thing if it was the last thing I ever did.
I got up and I reached out for Debbie to come and join me because the second I got up to the dais I realized I couldn’t do this alone. So I held her hand, which turned into her holding me as I sobbed my way through the reading and did my best to make things intelligible.
Death is nothing at all;
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name. 
Speak to me in the easy way you always used to.
Laugh as we have always laughed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort.
Life means all it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was; 
there is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
just because I am out of your sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well, nothing is past; nothing is lost. 
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
only better, infinitely happier, and forever we
will all be one together with Christ. 
Love doesn’t die, people do. 
So that when all that’s left of me is love,
give me away as best you can. 
I’ll see you at home, where I’ll be waiting.
And then we all sang “Amazing Grace”, and with that, my mother’s funeral was over.
A service that I had fretted and obsessed over for years was done and nothing went anything remotely like I thought it was going to. I didn’t sing. I didn’t play some ridiculous song on the piano and I didn’t wear my hair in a chignon or ridiculously large sunglasses.
But I did survive it.
***
Tonight we’re having a celebration in her memory here at our house and planning it this past week has been hell. I don’t want to be picking out flower arrangements or hor d’ oeuvres or wine or any of this shit. I don’t want to have to do this because I don’t want to admit that my mother has been gone for a year. It’s just not fair. It makes me angry and sad and confused and so many other things.
It’s making think how is this possible? How can it already have been an entire year? How can she have been gone for so long and how can I have lived a year of my life without her….
It seems so cruel that all that’s left now are memories and photographs. And as I fall apart for the hundredth time this week, I find myself clinging to them more than ever, and thinking about everything I’ve done and everywhere I’ve been in the past year, all of the new memories I’ve made and every time I laughed and every time I wished I could be pick up the phone and tell her about something, and trying so very hard to live by the words that I read in that poem to her, and wishing so desperately that I could have one more moment with her here.

Mom, I miss your laugh and your voice. I miss texting you and calling you everyday. I miss bickering with you over what haircut to get or whether or not a certain dress is cute. I miss you sending me pictures that would make me laugh out loud. I miss going to lunch when I’m home and drinking rose prosecco on the rooftop at Eataly. I miss talking to you about mean girls and cute boys. I miss going shopping and sending you a picture and you telling me that skirt makes me look fat. I miss going to concerts and traveling and exploring new places. I miss talking about our hopes and dreams and making plans. I’m sure you miss me too.

I hope you enjoy tonight. It won’t be anything too extravagant — although it surely should be. We’ll all be raising a glass to you. Or you know, in my case, raising several.


“But these few are the salt of the earth; without them, human life would become a stagnant pool. Not only is it they who introduce good things which did not before exist, it is they who keep the life in those which already existed.”

John Stuart Mill 

5 thoughts on “The Salt of The Earth

  1. So I’m sitting in a restaurant alone reading this with tears pouring down my face.

    Like

  2. Cried like a baby at the sevice (which you’re right, was absolutely perfectly Laura) and am crying now reading this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful tribute to your mom! I have tears flowing! Laura influenced all of us so positively and we loved her. We miss her too… more than you know. Thank you for the lovely tribute…I am so glad Debbie was with you! Know that we love you too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutely perfect and beautiful. Just like you, and your rainbow, salt-of-the-earth mom.

    Like

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