Sunday, December 27, 2009


I'm tired and my head is pounding. It's been a pretty stressful day all around and I'm not going to stop being stressed until I get a phone call, hopefully inside the next hour though I told Dad I'd give him a half hour beyond that before I started to panic.

It was Lisa's Alberta memorial today. She'd made a home she loved in Ontario, but spent most of the first thirty years of her life in Alberta, so there were a fair number of people here that couldn't make it to the Ontario ceremony who wanted (and given the role they played in her life, I'd say deserved {not that my saying so means much}) a chance to pay their respects/celebrate her life.

I've been trying to put my finger on why this afternoon's ceremony hit me so much harder than the one in Ontario. Maybe it was because of the familiar setting--the church where the memorial was held was also the church Lisa and Harvey got married in. The background on one of the photos in the video memorial was recognizably taken in the same place we were all sitting today. That one hit hard. They all did, really.

Many of the faces I saw today I haven't seen for years, but they're the faces of people I personally associate with Lisa. I know she was a well-liked member of the community out east, but the people at the last memorial were largely strangers to me. Today it felt a little bit more...real?

It may be that my role at the Ontario memorial gave me a bit of distance, physical as well as emotional, from proceedings. As a pallbearer I was seated apart from the family; today I held Mum's hand for most of the memorial and could feel her body shaking next to me when my own shaking was under control.

Or it could simply be that I was feeling some distress due to the circumstances of my arrival in Red Deer. Mum, Dad, and Harvey went there last night; T and I elected to stay home for the night because, well, we didn't want our dogs to destroy anyone's house--OK, the one dog, Data's too mellow to do much damage these days. T's parents were willing to have the dogs over and in fact did for much of the day, but having them during the day and having them at night are different things and they'd already taken care of the dogs for the week or so T was in Ontario with me. I didn't really want to dump more Dare-related hassles on them, at least not more than necessary.

Cevyn, given the choice of hanging out at her weird Uncle's place or going to Red Deer with her Dad and grandparents, opted to stay overnight here with T and I. Which meant that I was driving two of the most important people in my life to Red Deer this morning in my parents' unfamiliar car--which doesn't look that big from the outside but feels like a tank when you're behind the wheel. And it is power everything--an ill-timed cough from the back seat could put the stupid thing in the ditch, it's ridiculously sensitive, esp. compared to our car, which must be wrestled into submission with every single turn. It's not just because I'm an antisocial curmudgeon that I leave the house so infrequently--it's also because I'm too lazy to want to have to deal with steering the car.

The unfamiliar and dangerously accommodating car would have been nervewracking enough on its own, but that wasn't the worst part of the trip. No, that would be the cloud of fog that obscured the highway for the bulk of the trip to Red Deer. Granted, I've frequently said there are few things less interesting than the scenery on the way to Red Deer, but not being able to see the scenery, or in fact the road in front of you, is incredibly interesting. I look forward to my blood pressure returning to its normal level sometime in March.

When all was said and done, I managed to get Tiina and Cevyn to Red Deer in one piece. Well, two pieces, one part T and one part C, but you get the picture. Doing so had left me with a nasty neck strain and the pounding headache I seem to recall alluding to above.

As I also alluded to above, today was more emotionally wrenching than the previous memorial. Seeing Susan, Melodi, half my elementary school teachers, to say nothing of a couple of childhood homes, the Corner Store where I first regularly sought out the comics of the week, and my high school, had me feeling nostalgic for a period I don't usually feel much nostalgia for (partly because I don't remember most of it with any clarity and the parts I can recall are embarrassing enough to make me wish I didn't.) And all of that was before I was once again confronted the loss of my sister.

I don't think I was the only one feeling it more this time around. Dad only barely got through the wonderful eulogy Mum and he wrote; Cevyn was more emotional than I'd personally seen her since everything went chest up. Suzie, who was handling the live singing portion of the program, broke up crying in the middle of one of them...

...Which isn't to say the entire affair was without its humourous aspects. Anyone who wants evidence that God hates technology wouldn't have to look much further than today's memorial. First, there was a massive blast of feedback during a very odd point in the priest's initial speech. Why it would happen almost at the end of her talking instead of the beginning, I don't know, but there it was. She was talking about how great God was or some such and suddenly BRRAARRRNNNGGGGGG!

It went on quite awhile, too. Some people said it was Lisa having a laugh; Dad thought it was her missing her cue during the eulogy when he mentioned her enjoyment portraying a gassy patient in some sort of hospital function. It'd be nice to think that Lisa was there in spirit and able to affect proceedings, but if I were to believe that, I personally don't think that's the point at which she made her presence felt. No, that would come during the powerpoint presentation.

I don't know if it was actually a powerpoint presentation--I thought it was a prerecorded video cycling through a number of photos of Lisa selected by Mum, Dad, and Harvey before the visitation. Whatever it was, it didn't work very well today. First, the thing was frozen on the first image for a long, long time. So long the priest went towards the back to try and help resolve the problem. She neglected to turn her microphone off while doing this, and was apparently unaware that her whispered comments to whoever was running the computer were being broadcast all over the church. If I was one for praying, at that moment I'd have been praying for her to say something really inappropriate, like "Jesus #*%&ing Christ, what the #*%&'s wrong with this thing?", but it was not to be. I must admit I got a little giggly regardless, just because the broadcast whisper thing was funny to me at the time. Talk about grasping at straws...

Eventually, they sort of got the thing working. The photos started to go through the proper rotation, using the a variety of standard wipes for no good reason I could see, but hey, I was there for the photos, not the changes between the photos or the music.

I didn't mention the music, did I? The reason for that is because there was the better part of six minutes without the music that was supposed to play along with the montage. Eventually, some wretched country song (for all her good points, Lisa had no understanding of music, as evidenced by her insistence that country and western material actually counts as music and not an audio crime meriting the most extreme penalty for all who inflict it on the public) blasted a few lines into the church--and the video stopped. For a moment, I was absolutely jubilant--I'd seen the photos, but only had to actually listen to a couple bars of the accompanying "music". If Lisa was influencing things today, this was surely the moment, when she finally took pity on her poor brother and didn't make him listen to crappy country and western music.

Whether she was responsible or not, the jubilation was shortlived. Having resolved the problems, the video was restarted, complete with music. Which is just as well. Being happy at a memorial for one's deceased sister would be unseemly, even if that happiness was thoroughly justified, as I have to believe anyone who heard the tunes and understands that country music is to music what sweet potatoes are to potatoes (which is to say, COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and WHOLLY INFERIOR THINGS that have no business usurping their respective usurped terms) would agree was a completely understandable reaction on my part.

Today's minister personalized things a bit more than the last one, addressing each member of the immediate family and advising us to take a variety of hippy-dippy actions. The term "fill your memory cup" came up more than once, I believe. Still, I'll take a litany of pop-psych advice over friendly reminders that God's just the most wonderful thing, isn't he? any day. There was a fair amount of that going on today too, which is understandable but still faintly aggravating. Irritation has its uses, though. I think I would've been a complete snot and tear-drenched wreck (as opposed to a mostly snot and tear-drenched wreck) if I didn't have a new logical fallacy being foisted off on me as divine truth every ten or so minutes.

The minister said that God would come to comfort us in a variety of ways in the coming days--in the form of supportive friends and family, in our memories of Lisa. I expect she's right about the friends, family, and memories, but the only one I'll be giving credit for that is my sister.

I thought being driven back to Edmonton by Dad would let me relax a little, and it did, right up until we hit the same fog bank that made the trip to Red Deer such an edge of my seat affair. Granted, having someone else behind the wheel did stop me from freaking right out (though I imagine my grabbing the impact bar at the slightest provocation did nothing for Dad's state of mind.)

But as I started writing this post, something I'm doing instead of the thing I dearly want to be doing, which is sinking into a deep, deep sleep, that fog continued to make me edgy. Because Dad wasn't just driving me and T back home tonight--having done that he was also determined to go back to Red Deer. I understood why he felt he had to go: he wants to be there for Mum. Under almost any other circumstances I'd have wanted him there for her, too, but the idea of him driving back through the fog at night in an unfamiliar vehicle (he and Mum rented a minivan to move everyone around over the holiday) without a cellphone, to make things even more dicey... Well, let's just say I wasn't thrilled.

I told him I wasn't going to worry Mum by calling her and trying to get her to convince him to stay here overnight, because I don't think he'd have listened to her if she told him to stay put (in the same position, I don't think I would). So I gave him three and a half hours from leaving here to phone and let me know he'd gotten back to Red Deer safely before I hit the panic button.

He left. I ate some sandwiches. I read a few sentences from Eoin Colfer's "And Another Thing...". And he still had an hour and a half before I could start getting really agitated. So I started writing a blog post, because I haven't done that for awhile.

A few minutes ago, Tiina wandered into the room and informed me that Dad had phoned to let us know he was back in Red Deer safely. In addition to that, I've got standing orders from Mum to take my pills, get some sleep, and stop worrying about her. She's going to have to settle for two out of three.


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