"But at my back I always hear,
Time's winged chariot hurrying near"
- Andrew Marvell d.1678
January 23, 2012
One Month To My 66th Birthday!
By John Hartig
Even though, Andrew Marvell's poem, "To His Coy Mistress", was a poem of seduction, the message about time applies to the big picture, that we are all victims in the flow of time, that it moves relentlessly and keeps rolling over us, despite missed opportunities, aging and our puny little lives.
There are many things I remember about my mother. Well, they only exist in my memory now and I am grateful for the old photographs that the family has kept. My brother, George, also has special memories about my mom and so do my high-school friends of gone-by-days. I'm glad the last year of mom's dementia was a passive one, quiet and non-speaking because some people, I understand, get loud and even violent as they struggle against their decreasing capacities. I commented wryly to people during the past year that mom didn't speak anymore because she had used up all her words in this life. She had nothing more to say, and there was nothing more to say!
Mom's decline and death did not stop the world. There were some really tragic and stupid things still happening outside of mom's little existence in the Trinity Home. Afghanistan and Syria were news. Suicide bombers and protests! Too many other places to name, too many incidences. Scientists, I guess, are still excited about the discovery of K22 within the "Goldilocks zone" trying to find out what might be on this distant earth-like planet. And back home, like I said, tragic and stupid things keep happening.
Friday, January 13th 2012, mom was given a needle so she wouldn't feel any pain in her final hours. Her world was her death bed. The weather outside was frightful as it snowed, too wintry to go to Kitchener in a one and a half hour drive that day. Thank God, I had driven in on Wednesday when I could see green grass and be secure in a safe drive on a dry highway. Mom opened her eyes twice when I sat by her bedside, and I think, recognized me. I told her I was glad she was my mom. That was closure for me.
Friday, January 13th 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship hit a rock off the island of Giglio in Italy. At this point in my writing, just over a week after mom's death, divers have uncovered 13 bodies and 20 people are still missing. The captain is facing manslaughter charges. He says he happened to fall into a lifeboat when the boat tipped. Lots of things were going on while mom lay dying. The world did not stand still. On Saturday, January 14th, my brother, George, phoned me about 1 pm and informed me that mom had just passed away. They would let us know about the visitation and the funeral mass later that week.
Marjorie and I found a little Thai Restaurant in Kitchener, about 10 minutes away from the Trinity Home, on Tuesday afternoon. We had a late lunch. Marjorie's sister, Marilyn, calls a late lunch "Lupper" because it's an early supper (cute). We arrived early at the Henry Walser Funeral Home at about 6 pm. Visitation was to be from 7 until 10 pm. The rooms provided for the family of Rosa Hartig were spacious. A little table was situated at the back with a brown shiny box on top of it, holding mom's ashes. A black and white photo of mom in her younger years rested next to the brown box. She looked gorgeous. I still didn't cry.
My in-laws, Wally and Judy, arrived at about 6:30 having driven in 2 hours all the way from Ridgeville (St. Catharines area). They wanted to show their support of me during this time. I was happy to see them. Shortly, other relatives showed up, cousins and then old neighbours whom I hadn't seen in years. I was pleased to see Waldemar Scholtes, an old university friend of mine, come in with his wife, Nelly. Then there were my Uncle Steve, Cousin John and Mary, Aunt Sophie and Uncle Rudi, cousin Ricky and a whole contingent of old neighbours, like the Schills, who used to live a block down from us on Pandora Avenue in Kitchener. There were 18 children in that family, I think, 10 boys and 8 girls, a huge family who made a mark on our memories as we grew up. Their dad was an inventor. I had to pause before a name registered with a familiar face or two and often I had to plainly ask, yep, I remember you but forgot your name? It didn't matter. It was a comfort to have so many people drive in to see us to show respect for our mom. I said it was too bad that a funeral had to bring people together again. The mood was actually light and it was more or less a social gathering where we could share funny stories and reminiscences about Rosa. I joked with my step-mom-in-law that if mom had gone to Hollywood, with her looks at the age of 28, we'd be famous by now and rich! Mom's black and white photo was gorgeous and I loved that dimple and flowing black hair. Mom was a woman who loved clowning around, she was full of life and dressed in colourful clothes. She was a lady of fashion and loved high heels.
On Wednesday, January 18th, while divers were still recovering bodies inside the Costa Concordia, our family attended a funeral mass at St. Aloysius in Kitchener at 10 am. Marjorie and I had slept overnight at George and Shelley's condo. Just before 9 am, Reni's senior friend, Nick, called that he wasn't feeling good, so he would not attend the mass. He also couldn't help with getting Reni ready for the handicapped taxi. Could George arrange for Reni to be picked up? Marjorie and Shelley offered to go to the Trinity Home to arrange for Reni's transport to the church. George and I drove to St. Aloysius early to make sure everything was in place for the mass.
My friend, Glen Soulis, a musician brought his flute and violin and accompanied the pianist in some pieces during the service. That was a nice touch and very considerate of Glen to offer to play, as a tribute to mom. I was glad to see my other boyhood friend, Bill Oates and his wife, Christine, enter the church. Mark Hymers, of course, sent condolences long distance by email since he lived in New Brunswick.
I was supposed to do the first reading during this memorial mass for my mom.I thought the reading would go smoothly when I went up to the lectern in front of the church. Boy, was I wrong.
I hadn't cried up to this point. I was supposed to read from Job 19:23-27. Now you have to remember that mom was cremated. When I came across the line: "and after my skin has been thus destroyed," hot tears just filled my eyes. I couldn't help it. It took a minute or two to recompose myself before I could finish my reading. I felt badly that I had muffed it up there in front of people but Marjorie said that it was an altogether understandable thing to cry when you had to.
Father Wojciech Kuzma spoke kind words about love for someone who passed away. The choir sang very nicely during the service, selecting hymns that were really appreciated, like Amazing Grace and On Eagle's Wings. My sister, Reni, had her wheel-chair beside my pew and occasionally I touched her arm in comfort as she dabbed her eyes with Kleenex. I'm glad that my niece, Kelly, offered to sit beside Reni, so I got up to fetch a chair for her. Mom's life was celebrated in a respectful way through this service.
I enjoyed visiting with my relatives and friends after the service for the luncheon downstairs in the church. I was glad to see all my nieces: Trish, Kelly, Silvie, Sandra and Monica. Generations come and go. After the luncheon, a few of us still had memories to share, not only about mom but also about my half sister, Nellie, who had passed away a few years earlier. We stayed two and a half hours after the luncheon was supposed to be over and talked and talked and talked. It was good to connect again with Silvie, Sandra and Monica who recounted a bunch of stories about mom and Nellie. They were unique women.
Well, it's Monday, January 23rd 2012. It's been a little over a week since Rosa Hartig passed away. Our Christmas tree is still up and I've got to pack it away by the end of the week. Some years, we have left it up until the end of January. It's also a little over 2 weeks that we came back from our cruise to the Southern Caribbean on the Holland America line. I was not too happy to hear about what happened to the Costa Concordia on January 13th thinking about how our lives can often be in other people's hands. I'm glad we had a good cruise.
Marjorie has to finish her report cards this week and I have to get the Christmas tree down for another year. Mom loved Christmasses.
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