impressions of today

confused boarding 5.30a oakland airport. long beach cold & foggy morning drive to the mortuary. once we drive in we all stop talking and laughing. we park, get out, there's annie. she sees us and in one moment she starts sobbing and walks towards us. we all hug her and this one moment makes the trip worth it.

service all in mandarin kathy whispering translations in my left ear. there's a lot from the minister about how if you believe in jesus you're cool and otherwise you're fucked, but the family tributes are lovely.

annie tells a story. she's 9 and they've just moved to the us from china and annie gets a barbie doll for christmas. on the back of the package, an array of fabulous barbie outfits is pictured but annie knows there's no money for those things, she's lucky to have gotten a present at all. she doesn't say how badly she wants the outfits but her mother sees her looking. the next morning when annie wakes up, her mother has stayed up into the night making the barbie outfits by hand.

it ends with a slide show and the crying from the front row starts softly and builds into the strange animal sounds of deep grief and it breaks my heart in half.

when sorrow is so profound there is no right thing to say.
the only thing to do is offer love and bear witness.

after we line up cars and drive to the interment. i feel strange walking across the lawn and try to stay maximally distant from the headstones. i don't want to walk on anyone. they put her urn in the earth, the family places some items in with her. i'm standing at the hole, the five of us stand there and place our pink roses inside and bow three times. i whisper a message of my own. the hole fills up with pink roses.

it's strange watching them fill the hole with dirt as the family stands right there and the photographer (who was everywhere all day) snaps shots of their faces as they watch them pack it down and cover it with sod and pour water. i think if it were me i would think "they are putting dirt on my mom. they are pouring water on my mom." i suppose it might provide a sense of closure but it is still surreal.

then a luncheon and the five of us who woke up at 4.30 to fly in start to blink around in a daze and then we're going to the airport and on the plane i fall asleep before takeoff and sleep hard until a screaming child wakes me up.

and tomorrow will be just a normal day for me. i was only visiting that place but i think annie will be living there for awhile.

and i suppose i will just try to offer love and bear witness.