The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Parting words


                     Sylvia Mercer Beynon

                            1944 - 2011

On Saturday, January 29th my family received the call that is as dreaded as it is inevitable.  My mother died of heart failure.

It has been a savage week, physically and emotionally and we are all exhausted.  I'll post more later, but for today I'll leave a few great pictures and the text of the Eulogy I delivered at my mom's funeral service on Thursday.

Parting Words

A funeral service is not for the person we’ve lost.  It is for us who are left behind.  Today, all of us grieve my mother in our own way.  Some of us quietly.  Some of us angrily.  Some of us tinged with hopelessness and sorrow and loss.  Some of us with loud sobs and others with silent tears.  Still others with laughter at one of my mother’s jokes or remembering one of her stories, of which there were many. 

I have stories, too.

A little while ago, I was reminded of a tooth I had removed.  Because then, as now, I best deal with discomfort with humour as my armour, and because he’d given me a half tablet of valium, I asked the dentist, “I need to know doc, will my tooth be waiting for me when I get to heaven?”

The dentist didn’t know me at all, so with a raised eyebrow and a shrug he said, “Sure.  If  that’s what you want to believe, sure.  Your tooth will be waiting for you in heaven.”

The dentist had it right.

Personally, I believe that death is like falling asleep and never waking up.  That’s what I believe, but what I believe is only important for me.  I think my mom had similar feelings, but you know what?  What she believed about life and death and beyond, is only important for her.

I guess each of us finds our own meaning at times like this. 

My mother lived a grand life – a big life – full of laughter, tears and challenges.  She suffered from depression.  She had the love of true friends.  She went to bat for people with the same fierce determination that she could hold a grudge.   Man, could she hold a grudge.

I’ve heard again and again over these past difficult days that my mom is reunited with my dad.  Regardless of what you believe, there’s no denying the truth of that.  In fact, they’re in there in that urn together and I’ll share this story with you.

My parents always dreamed of a world cruise together.  Timing, finances, life and ultimately death got in the way of that.  After my dad died and was cremated, his remains were placed in that urn.  My mom painted that urn when she was into ceramics years ago.  It was her wish that when her time came that she be cremated, her remains added to the urn and that it be sealed.  Our instructions are clear.  My sister and I are to set that urn adrift in the Ocean.  Either the Atlantic or Pacific, my mom wasn’t picky.  Not the Great Lakes we were told.  If we do, she promised she’d haunt us and not in a Casper the Friendly Ghost sort of way.

My mother was a socialist.  She hated big business, supported unions and loved Fidel Castro.  But she was a capitalist, too.  She could go to a garage sale and find a statue of a little boy peeing priced at fifty cents.  She’d talk the seller down to a quarter.  She believed that workers should be paid a decent wage, but then she would turn around and hire unqualified help because it would save her some money.  It drove me crazy and I’m pretty sure she knew it drove me crazy, too.

My mother was a lot of things, but simple wasn’t one of them.

After my father died, my mom hit a rough patch.  She suffered.  During her suffering she met Mary Archer, a woman who would become one of the great friends of her life.  My mother had the great fortune of having her best friend at her side as she died.  We should all be so lucky.  Thank-you, Mary. Thanks for being there for my mother, in life and in death.

People are lucky if they find true, genuine friends in this life.  I have a wealth of friends.  My mother was similarly wealthy.  I can look about this room and see you all, but I need to single out one more person.  Though he will no doubt say his efforts were nothing and merely the acts of a considerate neighbour, only the generosity of John Welch made it possible for my mother to remain on the farm and remaining on the farm was incredibly important to her.  John, thank-you for being such a selfless neighbour and a constant support for my mother.  Thank-you for the hundreds of things I know about and the thousands than I don’t.

Animals.  Animals were a big part of my mother’s life.  You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat animals.  Everyone in this room knows that my mother loved animals and animals loved her.  She came by it naturally.  On a trip to Britain this spring, my family and I were treated to some old photos from my dad’s side of the family.  In virtually every picture there was a dog.  Always a dog.  As we went through the photos from the farm, selecting snapshots for albums and memory boards for this service, a similar pattern emerged.  If you go through the albums, you’ll see.  There’s a picture of a bird eating seeds from my mother’s palm, one of a seal coaxed under electric fence wire to visit my mom and a host of pictures of dogs.  Always a dog – usually more than one.

If there’s a Heaven and it is a perfect place, my mother will be with my father surrounded by every pet they ever owned.  Robbie, the collie dog.  Tiger, the cat.  Kitten, who could only have been named by little kids.  Hoggie Wolf.  Chopper.  Beau and Natasha, the Great Danes.  Lady.  Killer, the little Benji dog.  Boogins.  Vickie the Sheep, because, let’s be honest, the livestock – even the ones we ate – they were pets, too.  Energetic Scotty.  Indestructible Ming.  Even that yappy little disgusting nicotine yellow toy poodle, Peaches will be there because though I hated that thing with a vengeance, my mother found something in it to love.  I must have forgotten some, because there were so many.

Do I believe that this is where my mother is now, with my father and surrounded by her beloved pets?  It doesn’t matter what I believe, but wouldn’t it be nice if she is? 

Thank-you all for being a part of my mother’s life.