I was at the church the other day and ran into the choir director, Rebecca, a supremely gifted soprano who possesses a stunning songbird voice. After introducing myself, I told her how much I love to hear her sing anything, that I’d love to hire her to sing Ave Maria for me personally if only I could afford it. Alas, my financial situation does not allow such an indulgence. But no pity, please, for God’s Grace was about to unfold.

“Why don’t you come to the funeral on Monday; I’ll be singing Ave Maria,” she told me with aplomb. “What a great idea,” although I confessed I did not know the deceased person.

“That doesn’t matter,” was her practical solution-oriented response.

So I decided then and there to go and am excited at the prospect of hearing Ave Maria again, regardless of the circumstance. What’s more, it occurred to me that I would be killing two birds with one stone since weeping uncontrollably is permitted at such an event. Why would there be tears? Breathtakingly beautiful music can illicit such emotion in the most glorious way when I hear it. I’ve been known to weep listening to The Messiah, Pachelbel, and other great compositions that move me to that state of Grace and beauty.

But I have another reason for tears at this particular juncture, having a backlog of them. The emotional congestion is so great I’m in danger of rupturing something internally if there is no release, and soon. Why? I have been accumulating an off-the-charts stress load due to a ‘temp job’ I’ve undertaken, one I rarely do anymore.

What three week temp job can generate such stress?  The fever pitch mother lode of about-to-leak-out emotionality has arisen because I’ve been “keeping an eye” on an elderly woman, Nana, and her (daughter’s) little dog, Toto, for the last couple weeks. The dog is a dream; the elderly lady, not so much. A more generous but accurate description is that said walker-dependent woman may be as emotionally and psychologically crippled as her legs, at least that’s how she appears to me. She is just that starved for an audience. And even if her need to constantly connect through non-stop negative nattering about minutia is a bit overstated, her self-inflicted deprivation is in dramatic contrast to my need for ‘alone time’ and quietude. All of this is an emotional toxic stew not lending itself to an easy accommodation. It’s not about blame. Quite simply, our pathologies and habits simply do not mesh.

While I have great compassion for Nana, am aware she has a good heart, am even aware she means well and is doing the best she can, she is hard to be with for any length of time. As a friend of mine describes her situation with elderly family members, it is ‘not so easy.’ Indeed! At times Nana feels hellish, at minimum, purgatorial, although she likely is not experiencing as much pain in the situation that I feel. After all, I’m enduring her talk, talk, talk which I don’t typically experience living alone, while she is getting greater relief from a new and captive audience.

The conflict for me is that I want and need to ‘be kind’ to myself as well as her. This requires her being ‘left’ alone far more often than she’d prefer even though, to some degree, that’s what her live-in daughter and partner quite often do. This leaving involves me going into another room, walking the dog more often than is required, running imaginary errands to get a break etc., just so I can exercise responsible self-care to escape the relentless onslaught of her talking.

Hence my need for a good cry. The build-up has reached a fever pitch. I can’t wait to go to the funeral in part to not only get away and hear stunning music but to grieve the temporary loss of a personal sanctuary. I have never been this excited for a funeral. While that sounds weird even to me, it can’t come soon enough! I’ll be able to escape into Ave Maria as rendered by Rebecca, with the added bonus of releasing my mother lode of tension accumulated from the lack of peace and quiet. How odd that this has been miraculously arranged through a grief-friendly, socially acceptable funeral ritual invitation where weeping is allowed, if not encouraged.

After the funeral has come and gone I still have one more week of “keeping an eye” on Nana and taking care of the daughter’s little dog, Toto. I may need to Google upcoming funerals at other area churches just to keep my sanity in check. And while it has occurred to me that I might inflict my own nattering on others in the future, until then, I’m grabbing what sanity I have left and heading to the closet to select my funeral attire for the festivities tomorrow. Let the Grace continue!

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