When I used to work with Barb, she would quote from Steel Magnolias a lot – it’s like her thing, so if you’re ever looking to get Barb a gift, just order her an aardvark cake or force a cup of juice into her face and yell at her to drink it.
And usually I would groan because that was my signature response to Barbisms, but anytime she would quote from the pivotal cemetery scene, I would get on board and buckle up. If you’re some weirdo who’s never seen that movie, there is a part where Dolly Parton’s character says, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
That’s what I was counting on to get me through Saturday, when we had our memorial service for Sharon, and also my grandma, who died almost exactly 5 years ago. My brother Corey went above and beyond, doing all the leg work with the funeral home, church, and cemetery to make sure all the arrangements were made. It was a huge burden off of our mom and will forever be appreciated.
I’m not trying to be morbid or tacky (though these qualities come so easily for me) by recapping this but I honestly want to remember it as a day where friends and family came together in Sharon’s memory, and how it provided a sense of normalcy for some of us to have that experience this time around. Corey did such a wonderful job organizing everything and I never want to forget it! And it was really comforting to see the familiar faces of my friends Lisa, Chris & Monica, Angie and her fiance Keith; and family members I don’t get to see very often like my aunt Susie and her husband Larry, my dad and brother Ryan, and my cousin Karen and Aunt Donna. Corey had his friends Dan and Michelle there, and my mom’s friend Debbie came, plus Henry’s mom Judy, so it was a chapel filled with friendly faces and it really helped me breathe better. We kept it simple and casual, and it was the best way to go, I think. Especially after how traumatic and stressful the last several months have been for us.
My meager contribution was making a photo collage of Sharon, which was certainly in my wheelhouse because I am obsessive when it comes to photographs and knew where every picture was before I even got started (which is why I literally waited until the night before to start piecing everything together – I work well under pressure kind of, but not).
And then when we realized that prayer cards hadn’t been ordered, I decided to save Corey the extra baggage by offering to just make them myself. I mean, I made them for work once so I kind of have experience?
I found some images of old, antique prayer cards, back when they were printed on actual lace. I thought they were so pretty and knew they’d be perfect. They just screamed elegance to me. I spent some time looking for appropriate poems/prayers to put on the back, and then Henry did all of the printing because I don’t get my hands dirty with that stuff.
Once we arrived at the church, I kind of started panicking. I mean, I modeled the prayer cards off of ones I already have in my collection (for my Pappap, dad, etc.) so they were the standard size and whatever, but I felt very self-conscious about them since they were DIY and would Jesus frown upon that? I mean, he was a carpenter so he should be proud when someone makes something on their own, right?
Turns out, they took on a life of their own. After the mass, we congregated in the foyer of the church and people started murmuring about them. Monica told me that Sister Mary Eunice (the resident nun’s Monica-given name) approached her and said, “I’m sorry for your loss, but do you know where these prayer cards came from?”
I snagged this photo from Corey’s Facebook because that’s how I do.
So then she found me and started pumping me for info.
“Did you get them from the funeral home? No? You made them!? Do you have a business?” she asked.
I mean, technically, I do have a business…but it’s serial killers not prayer cards.
And then, “Do you mind if I take a couple extra for the girls in the office?” I mean, who can say to such a sweet old nun? She was so earnest about it.
That provided some much needed levity, as well as my dad pointing out that the church left the key in the door and maybe I should take it to have a copy made so that I can come back anytime I want (you know, since I’m SO HOLY), and my eyeball purse making the family service worker and Father Dan bust out laughing at the cemetery. (Thank god Chooch wasn’t there. He hates that purse so he would have been real angry that it was getting attention as usual.)
Laughter through tears, you guys!
After the cemetery, some of us convened at Blue Flame for lunch, and that’s when I realized that Chris and Lisa are some sort of strange, parallel people with nearly the same hair cut (swooped to opposite sides), nose rings on the same side, and a penchant for chair-dancing to whatever 80s monster ballad was playing on the radio — in tandem without realizing it. By the end of the lunch, they were making plans to go kayaking together!
This was also when I learned that Chris knew she wanted to be friends with me when she saw my quotation mark finger tattoos – I never knew! So between that, the waitress nickel-and-diming us (“Just so you know, that’s an upcharge. Just so you know, that doesn’t come with it. Just so you know, that will be considered an extra side.”), and Henry’s dumb face, we had a lot of laughs and it felt so good.
AND THEN PHIL CAME ON THE RADIO! So I got to make a Phil Party Instavid, wherein I instructed everyone not to talk but my brother Ryan didn’t get that memo and NEARLY RUINED THE VIDEO by asking, “What are you doing?” Ugh, Ryan. Just ugh.
After lunch, we took Chris and Monica back to The House so they could see it for the first time, and Corey and I got to share childhood stories with them with also helped with the healing process. I had to laugh because right as we were getting ready to leave, it started hardcore thundering. I think it was Sharon telling us to wrap it up in there, because she would always get so antsy and nervous any time people came over. We heard you, Sharon. :)
I went home that day feeling very peaceful and thankful to have known Sharon, to have such wonderful people in my life (a lot of my friends who couldn’t be there reached out via text & Facebook and it really meant so much), and to finally have that sense of closure.
Also, that was the second time in a week that I found myself in church and lived to talk about it. I fell right back into the motions of genuflecting, “Peace be with you”ing, and reciting the Our Father FLAWLESSLY thank you, so now I’m considering making this a weekly thing, maybe? Chooch seemed to enjoy all the parts where he got to repeat after the priest, so maybe he’ll go with me.
Laughter through tears. Every time.
The next morning my mom called me and said that her friend Debbie called to ask her about the prayer cards. She sounded so annoyed, haha. Those fucking prayer cards.
I will end this with a picture of Sharon in her signature Bon Jovi shirt. <3