Today we buried our ten-year-old neighbor boy, Ty Kammeyer. His mother, Rebecca, the sister I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with in the soprano section of our church choir, stood at the pulpit and comforted the masses of schoolchildren who sat in the congregation. She was amazing. I watched in my latest state of stunned stupor, wept out and worn out, curious about the motion of life in the humans who surround me. Death does weird things to one's thinking. I watched from my seat in the back as parents' arms wrapped around their grieving children and drew them in. One young girl up and to the left of me sat with friends and curled her arms around herself as her sweet plump lips quivered. Rebecca commented that she believed Ty was as surprised to find himself on the other side of the veil as she was to have him go there. His jump up to heaven was impetuous and sudden.
Monday we buried Lindsey. Spjute, we called her. In line for her viewing Sunday night we stood under two massive chandeliers and waited to greet her family and pay our respects. I imagined Spjute's spirit with a platinum Superman cape over her shoulders, sitting on the rim of one of those chandeliers and getting such a kick out of the crying crowd. Blubber-bums, she called us. She ran to heaven on an early Saturday morning. Felt that burst of speed overcome her and she darted out ahead of her mission companion in a forest in England. Must have seen some stairway to heaven and took it two steps at a time in a full out sprint. Never looked back. The autopsy indicated her body was perfectly healthy. She had run the Ogden Marathon a year ago Saturday. Still, for no apparent reason, she collapsed and died in an instant. I sang Memoria at her graveside. Annie, her friend from childhood, slipped over to me afterwards, laid her head against my chest and sobbed.
That same day we buried Mae Batty, the human smile who greeted faithful saints at the door to our chapel on Sunday mornings. She was a Matriarch, with a capital M, and her family must figure out how to close the large heavy door she left open when she went up.
Thursday I sang at the funeral services for 21 year old Ty Wilde, who died days earlier on his bullet bike. Bullet bikes are not allowed in heaven. Flaming young men curl their fingers tight around their handles and thrust them at the gate. The boys get in, but the bikes slide down to Hell where they belong.
Last week, after a recording session with producer/friend/engineer Mark Stephenson, the heart-whisper that sometimes fizzes up behind my neck told me to sit on Mark's couch and talk. "Help him find the words", it said. So he postponed his next session; sat at his piano and talked about his mother, about her safe and comfortable arms, her confidence in him, her tenderness toward him and his children. I have recorded three albums in the studio housed in Marks childhood home. I feel the memories hovering in the corners of the ceiling. Songs do not usually come fast for me. But before the night came on Mark had his song, and it was his mother,June. He sang it to June on Mother's Day. Days later his father Keith bent over and told June it was OK, she could go, and she drifted up there with Spjute and Ty and Ty and Mae. And Linda, who lived 5 houses away and whose breast cancer insisted she cross over before she could get her petunias planted.I saw her children and grandchildren bent over her flowerbeds on Mother's Day, turning the soil in her memory. Pink and white and yellow blossoms are starting to appear.
Tonight, in the middle of the bridal shower I was hosting at our house, the phone rang. Our friend Eric told us Hank Wolfgang had been killed in a car accident this morning. Hank was supposed to play the organ at our funerals. When we were teenagers and Hank was in his twenties and newly baptized, he sat on one end of the pew in the Pittsburgh 2nd Ward and our mom sat on the other. We who sat between them could feel the bench shake when some random comment from the pulpit hit Mom and Hank's funny bones at the same time. I'm not sure if Hank is all the way in yet, or if he is checking out the grounds of heaven while his family tries to process the idea of him being there.
OK, so is this enough yet? Are we getting what we're supposed to get? I don't know. I watch the news and a fellow in China crouches against the side of a crumbled school house and rocks back and forth, back and forth, his hand cupped around his forehead, his mouth wide open and silent. I stop myself from comparing the level of suffering and sorrow. We cannot measure such things for each other. In the end it is just me and my God.
Monday, after everyone had left Lindsey's freshly dug grave, the grass attempted to return to its upright position. Against the silence two feet shuffled across the lawn, solitary and slow. They stopped at the side of her grave, and the shadow of a set of bagpipes swept across a pair of dew polished shoes. Young Daniel Eskelsen, mourning the loss of his friend, snapped his elbow against the bladder of his pipes; lifted the mouthpiece to his lips and gave Lindsey Amazing Grace there on the side of the hill. I imagine she liked that.