Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Part II: Notes on details

The five of us (leaving Hannah with someoneā€¦ Hope's aunt, maybe?) went to the funeral home that afternoon to talk about Mom's life, choose a casket, etc. The discussion was on the vault too long for my tastes. We were to have a draft of the extended obit by 9 that night, as the funeral home person would turn in her notes to the writers after our meeting, and someone would go to work. It turns out that she didn't get her notes in until 6 (even though our meeting was over before 4), and there was some kind of backlog. The newspaper obit draft came to us via fax around 10 the next morning (Saturday), and there were significant errors of fact to correct as well as some pretty crappy writing. We met again with the same funeral director, and by the end of my corrections, she seemed a bit miffed. Indeed, I suggested a better phrasing and punctuation situation for the funeral home's name and location, and it was as though she were a Marvel villain shooting hatred beams out of her eyes.

Around dinnertime, the extended obit was finally available. Dad printed three copies and told Paul and me to go to town. Paul found the same errors of fact as had been in the newspaper obit, and although he wasn't thrilled with most of the writing, he only made the change from "particularly prouder than peaches." I rewrote most of it, and I still have a hard time believing that they paid someone to write such a thing. While the creation of the story from the notes taken by the funeral director was impressive, I am uncomfortable with the quality of the product that was returned to us. I retyped the extended obit and emailed it to the director with instructions simply to paste it into the form and not to screw with it. The five of us spent the evening working on photo boards and compiling songs for the CDs to play in the background at the funeral home.

Sunday, during the first visitation, they began showing a DVD, which took snippets of the obit and matched them with pictures of Mom. Unfortunately, they used the original text, errors of fact, hideous grammar, and all. My father and I spoke plainly about this to people watching the DVD, and a few times, I began what could have been described as the Writers Among Idiots Manifesto: Haunted by semicolons. As we left, our friends standing among us, I inquired as to the likelihood that the DVD would be fixed by the next day's visitation. The director expressed sympathetic doubt, so I increased the volume of my voice slightly and reminded him of the significant errors of fact. He seemed only slightly more hopeful. The music went over well, although when it first came on, it was too loud and happened to start in the middle of "Dancing Queen," which may have been a bit too spunky for any funeral except Mom's.


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