It shows up in the oddest moments, lighting the darkest corners.
A few days ago I sat in a funeral home with two of my sisters, listening to the endless litany of explanations regarding cremation. The writer in me perched on the edge of the couch in unfettered curiosity while the sister in me kept a careful eye and hand on my younger sibling as she nodded through each statement. At forty-seven, she is not quite two years younger than me. Sitting next to me, here in the funeral home, she is the indomitable woman, checking boxes to order the cremation her firstborn.
My niece, a vibrant, beautiful girl of unimaginable potential, overflowing with love, filled with laughter and blessed with a flair for the dramatic. She was a popular performer on the local stages, known for her wit, her compassion, her tiny five foot frame and that Ethel Merman voice.
Her mother scribbles her initials on the contract, the room solemnly silent, so unlike her daughter’s life. She hands the clipboard back to the funeral director who nervously clears his throat and moves to the next paragraph.
“This paragraph states that you understand that the cremation is irreversible.” He clears his throat again, handing over the pen and paper.
I glance at my youngest sister, sitting across from us, a quiver tickles at the corner of her mouth as she meets my eye. I swallow the giggle that threatens to erupt as I picture my niece’s reaction to that particular gem in her funeral planning.
The surprised flip of her fiery red hair, the quirk of her eyebrow and miffed moue of her lips. “Irreversible you say? This is just coming up now?”
Her infectious laughter at the absolute absurdity, echoes in my mind. A little sparkle of the good grief, the moments that make you smile through your tears. It happened again when her mother reluctantly declined to attend the cremation and take the opportunity to push the button.
Noting her hesitation, I whispered, “Are you sure you don’t want to?”
She scribbled her initials, “Nah, I’d like to, but she’d think it was gross. I’ve already taken a lock of her hair, she’d be like, MOM! That’s weird AND gross! Do NOT come push the button you sicko! ” It was a pitch perfect rendition of her daughter’s voice.
Youngest sister and I are caught picturing it and forced to look away from each other before the giggles escape. Another glimmer of good grief, like a rhinestone flashing in the spotlight. It reminded me of the lyric, there’s no people like show people, they smile when they are low.
The radiant memory of this beautiful girl will forever catch me unaware, reminding me to smile, laugh, and go, on with the show.