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Today: Life is cold…and awesome

Alan Jackson Denise Farm Frost nature Old First Church Outdoors Parting Glass Robert Frost Southern Vermont Vermont winter

chilly waters
cold, cold Battenkill

The daily race was on. I fed a bunch of pets, poured cups of coffee & cocoa, packed lunches, taxied north and back to deliver Char to school, attempted a tank fill-up with $3.56 (which gets you a little over a gallon of gas), taking photos here and there along the way. Back home, in the warm kitchen, I chit-chatted with the downhill skiing crew that was preparing to depart in the 11-below January cold. I moved hay and water, herds and flocks, and cuddled with wooly sheep. After sweeping the barn, I realized I was about to be late for a funeral for a friend.

Flying out of my coveralls and into a wool coat, I threw a beret on to cover my unbrushed, unwashed hairdo, hoping no one would notice my pajama top if I put a nice scarf around my neck.

When I got to Denise’s funeral, I was indeed about 5 minutes late. The funeral parlor gent greeted me so kindly and assured me I wasn’t late at all, escorting me to my seat. Right behind Denise’s family.

It began with a eulogy by her 22-year-old son- same age as my eldest. He broke the ice with “Well, this sucks” and then, of course, after the tension was eased, shared the most poignant speech I ever want to hear a 22-year-old boy give for his 50-year-old mom. Sean’s job has him arriving home at a variety of times and in the last year, he and his mom had a ritual of sharing a cocktail on the porch at possibly all hours after work. Sean wanted us to remember Denise’s good humor, smiling love of life by playing “It’s 5:00 Somewhere“,(Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett version), and of course, we all sang the chorus together in high spirits.

Curiously, though I’d never met her, I was seated next to Denise’s best friend “Tammy.” When she stood up to speak, I was dumbfounded. For years, Denise had told me about her best pal, the “Southern Tammy” (I am her “Northern Tammy”), and here I was, finally meeting her, in a funeral parlor. Isn’t that just life, people?

Cassie is Denise’s 17-year-old daughter, good friend to my own 17-year-old daughter. She stood and spoke with so much courage, so much beauty. I know Denise was beaming upon her. Cassie announced, “I’m going to sing you a song now. A song that mom and I used to sing together…I never understood, though, why mom would start crying at a certain point. Now I know.”

After she paused to check her tears, blow her nose and have a sip of water, she stood up and, as clearly and passionately as if she’d sold a concert hall out, sang The BeatlesIn My Life“.

There were more words we filled in the time together to try to make the celebration of Denise’s life fitting.

I thought I had it all together, I thought I’d be o.k.. When Cassie sang “The Parting Glass” at the very end, well, that was my undoing.

On my way home, I decided I’d freeze my arse off in a cemetery. It had the right sobering effect.

Robert Frost lived in my hometown here in Southern Vermont. He’s buried in Bennington in the Old First Church cemetery. I thought I’d go find him to say “hey” and “It’s cold today, Bob.”

In small town Vermont we are not always on guard. I left the car idling alongside the church, purse and all in the front seat, and headed into the snowy forest of tombstones. Frost’s grave is a shortish hike from the road. Downhill. At some point I realized maybe I should’ve turned the car off and locked it, and so I hurried along.

Thought my lungs would explode with the sharp, cold air while I hustled. I arrived frozen at Frost’s grave. It was good to bawl. I’m all good now.

Life is awesome, folks. All parts of it. Thanks for the lessons, Denise.

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Cemetary in Old Bennington, VT
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Old First Church, Old Bennington, VT

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