‘And what is so rare as a day in June?’
“And what is so rare as a day in June?
“Then, if ever, come perfect days;
“Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
“And over it softly her warm ear lays…”
Those lines from American Romantic poet James Russell Lowell’s “The Vision of Sir Launfal” were ones that, true to tradition, my mother was known to quote at some point in June.
And so it was appropriate that my brother Jay revisited them as we gathered for graveside services, another element of closure as her cremains were buried next to Dad’s at Richmond Union Cemetery.
June 30 was one beautiful day for that, albeit it a mighty sultry one warranting brevity as we gathered around her final resting place on Earth.
A graceful manager of heat who never had or wanted air conditioning, Ruth Ann Scherrer Hout would have advised complainers of the humidity to “think cool thoughts,” we later would laugh in agreement. Or get a cool washcloth, the practical solver of all problems would suggest of an alternative she herself never seemed to need employ.
When Mom died Feb. 8 at age 94, we decided then to organize a summer gathering, a party centered around a simple ceremony of remembrance.
Why trudge off to the cemetery, we reasoned, on a dreary winter’s day?
Why not, we decided, have an intimate sendoff celebration of family and friends at a warmer time, one we hoped could include mom’s 85-year-old “baby sister” from the Chicago area?
Unable to make it for the funeral in February, my Aunt Rae managed the trip last week to be part of a sobering experience as the last survivor of a family of four siblings grappling with the reality of having lost not one, but two sisters in less than two months.
She was as glad to be there, though, as we were to have her in our midst for an extended visit, one of laughter and remembrances from the perspective of the little sister who as a child would get a list of unsolicited summer reading homework from her bossy oldest sister, the bookworm/educator.
When we had decided on the June date — a Herculean undertaking when you’re calendar plotting with a group of people whose weekends are at a premium — it seemed like a long, long time away, but true to time marching on, it arrived ready or not, one to-do list after another updated, what to eat at a reception afterward, how to decorate, the order of things and such.
All the details of this distracted me from the inevitable emotion of it all, part funny, part sad as I worried we would arrive at the cemetery, ready to go, but forget Mom, her urn on the bookcase in a spot she would have appreciated among the many classics, travel material and reference works.
My brother Jay shared service duty with our church pastor, again the designated family eulogist who was delegated the duty of comments on our behalf, a brief review of her life as wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, traveler, musician and lover of nature.
And he was elected as well to cover her grave, a move preceded by the comment that, as a lifelong gardener, he had planted many wonderful and beautiful things.
“I guess this is one more,” he said.
I jogged through the cemetery the other day, the first time since mom and dad are now there together.
I blew them a kiss.
“See you later,” I said.
And I believe I will.
(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)