Saturday, September 19, 2009


ladies of the church

I shot this with my holga just after I visited the Lutheran ladies in the church kitchen off to the right where they were laying out the lemon bars and the brownies for the public reception following my grandmother’s service. Just after I carried in the trays of pickled herring which I was concerned no one would eat and everyone devoured. Just before the funeral began.

We had a private reception later, for family, in the little boating community where my aunt and uncle live, overlooking the water in the summer afternoon light. The buffet was (if I remember right) stacked high with shrimp and fish and steamed clams and thoughtful vegetable preparations. Delicious. Polished. A bit distant from the grief.

The reception in the church gym was fed by rye bread and cold cuts and lefse gone wrong (no no no: we do not mix the sugar and the cinnamon into the butter before we spread it and roll the little pancake. no.). It was just like all those buffets held in church gyms: suits and skirts looking strange against baseboards and the worn and weary free throw lines scratched out on the floor. Old friends and family counting the years, catching up, tallying the time.

I associate my grandmother so strongly with this church that I burst into tears when my aunt suggested we might have her service somewhere else. Childish tears which I tried quickly to bury. It wasn’t my call, I had no right to protest, but I was relieved when it came around in the end to this and we remembered her in the pews where she raised her children and churched her grandchildren.

Where she recited the Apostle’s Creed like a magic incantation and comforted her heart with hymns sung from memory. Where she shuffled the pages of her program and engineered that transference that is so crucial to people of formal faith: that others hold the same hope, believe the same stories, light the same candles.

Where she tried so hard to save our souls.

1 comment:

anniemcq said...

She would be so proud of the writer you are. This is heartbreakingly lovely, as well as just damn good.

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