I delivered my mother’s eulogy at her funeral Mass back on Saturday. It was the toughest few pages I’d ever had to write. Even harder was sharing it verbally in the church with the other mourners.
After all, there are the basic facts to cover: her birth, bits on her upbringing, her marriage, her family, where she’d lived and worked, etc. More important, though, are the human aspects. Somehow I got through the 10 minutes or so without breaking down, but, as I spoke, I remember feeling numb….
Beating someone up is bad enough. Beating someone up while hurling bigoted abuse at them is even uglier socially. Beating someone up for bigoted reasons and sounding like an absolute moron while doing so is simply peak stupid.
His assailant is hardly the only dimwit. Days after September 11, 2001, a Sikh was murdered in Arizona in “reaction” to the attacks. In 2012, in Wisconsin, another idiot shot up a Sikh temple, killing six, after having reportedly mistaken it for a Muslim mosque. Sikhs in the U.S. have caught all sorts of other stupid nonsense, and likely most of it never gets reported.
We attended the funeral yesterday for my sister-in-law’s younger sister, Donna. A woman vicar celebrated it. One brother read her eulogy and did so superbly. At the conclusion of the thoughtful, loving service, at the crematorium, we filed out past Donna’s casket to the sounds of – I kid you not – “Dancing Queen,” by Abba: it was her favorite song.
All wasn’t harmony and unity, though. One brother did not attend. There has been some major rift between him and the rest of his family. He wasn’t even included in the prayers which named all of the immediate family members, including several who are deceased.
We found out from our nephew afterwards that about 18 months ago he had moved. He didn’t even leave his new address with anyone. The rest of the family have no idea where he and his family now live – and if they even know about Donna’s death.
You never know what out there will provide eventual story material. Subconsciously, I’m always on the look out. In a real sense, I’m always working.
I try, but I can’t usually just switch my mind “off.” I find I pay attention to most “everything.” But I know I also have to do so without everyone around me suspectingI’m paying attention to, uh, “everything,” of course. ;-)
Case in point: Mass last Sunday included Psalm 92. Perhaps unsurprisingly if you know the first two novels, this line grabbed my attention:
You may have heard about this band of thoughtful world travelers:
At least for once there wasn’t an American involved. Nor are they facing long prison terms. That BBC article goes on to explain:
They were jailed for three days, but their sentences were back-dated to reflect time already served.
Evidently snapping naked pics at tourist vistas has become “the thing” lately. Because there always has to be something. The respected British travel writer, the Independent’s Simon Calder, has also pointed out:
Last weekend, at Mass the priest had announced a funeral service would take place on Wednesday at lunchtime. He also explained that the deceased would have only a small contingent of family and friends present. What really caught my attention was when he observed if any of us in the faceless congregation could make it, it would be appreciated.
When he said that, I made a mental note: if I could, I would be there. I awoke yesterday morning and remembered it. Working at home as I do, there was really no excuse not to go.
As you may know, Roman Catholicism and I have had a bit of a “complicated” relationship over the years, and my books reflect that. I packed the novel-writing away for all of an hour or so. As I closed the front door, I reflected on the fact that I could not recall ever before having been to the funeral Mass for a total stranger.
As we know, Amazon makes the first 10 percent of a Kindle book, as well as the first pages of a print version (although not nearly so many pages as for the Kindle), available for free reading online. I suspect that is gradually altering writing; I know it’s impacting mine. For given that potential readers get to sample only the beginning of your hard work that could stretch on for several hundred additional complex pages, it seems increasingly important that novels commence with “a bang.”
That said, and as you also may know, I don’t do “gunfire”; but I always seek to grab. Passports opens with an optimistic, pleasant, meeting in a college class, but one also loaded with various signs lots more is gonna happen here from every direction and then some. Frontiers starts with something of a “shocker” that is deliberately meant to lead a Passports reader briefly to think: “Wait. What?”
Now, given the reality its first pages will again be visible online anyway eventually, I thought I’d share the planned beginning to Distances.
A word of warning: There is a substantive “spoiler” in this “sneak peek.”
So, to borrow from a television sports reporter who says before revealing a final score for a game that will be broadcast only later on “tape delay,” if you are interested in reading the first two books and have not, and don’t like “spoilers,” CLICK HERE (and I’ll redirect you safely to yesterday’s post).;-)
Whether or not you choose to read on, have a good weekend, wherever you are. :-)
During our phone chat a few weeks ago (because we weren’t able to get together as hoped), my uncle told me that (based on what he’d read so far) he considered what I write nicely readable. That’s a good thing, though, he asserted. If it’s what I want, I should run with it.
But I thought how that could also be considered a “backhanded” compliment: that it is good enough to sell and attract readers, yeh, but it isn’t “deep.”
Recently I’d also noted a reader who’d written to me that she thought the books belonged in history classes. That is quite a compliment for fiction; but I wasn’t writing history, of course. (As flattering as that may be to hear, I don’t want to scare away potential readers here thinking they’re dry history. They’re not!) Yet “history” would seem pretty “deep” stuff, no?
After getting ashes at church, I stopped in at a small supermarket. At the check-out, the woman cashier – in her late teens to early twenties, I guess – chatted with me briefly. Suddenly, she looked at me a bit strangely.
On our way out of church this morning, the priest asked me, “And where are you from?”
He may merely have been asking where I was from in the U.K. It wasn’t our “regular” church. Nonetheless, I was startled.
I thought: Gee, do I look like I’m not from here? I’m sure, to some extent, I don’t.
As we shook hands, I replied, “I’m from New York originally.”
The look on his face indicated that answer was a surprise. I suppose he had indeed figured I was going to say Bristol or something.
But I often don’t know how to answer that question. I was born in New York City, and when asked where I’m from that’s my initial answer. I grew up on Long Island, in Suffolk County; but most Europeans haven’t a clue where Suffolk County is, and they usually associate “Long Island” either with the Hamptons or The Great Gatsby. And, here in England, there is a Suffolk county too – the “original” Suffolk, of course.
I’ve also spent much more of my adult life outside of the U.S. than inside of it. But I always feel American, and like a New Yorker. And I even still feel like a Long Islander – even though I have for years had no ties to Long Island whatsoever.
I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that way. We can move wherever in the world, but is where we are born and reared imprinted on us for life? Seems so.
Just a little “quiet reflection.” Hope you’re having a good Sunday. :-)