– Please trust me Dad.
He stops arguing, takes a breath and falls silent.
– Thank God I’ll be going to my reward soon.
He turns to face me directly.
– You know I have my plot already.
– Yes, Dad.
– Remember to bury Sophie and Teasha with me.
– Yes, Dad.
– Don’t forget to mention Lisa, Jessica and Ken in the family section of the obituary.
He walks to the door.
– Should I list the hymns now? Blessed Assurance, It Is Well With My Soul, and Lord I’m Coming Home.
I write them down. He leaves.
A few minutes later, my bedroom door opens.
– And Barbara.
– Yes, Dad.
I’m torn whether to plan my father’s funeral while he’s still alive. I’m not sure how appropriate it is but I would do a better job when not in mourning.
I wish Pam could help me.
Pam was my mentor in the art of life. She taught me how to develop and print black and white film. I lived in her darkroom under the basement stairs for a couple years, lured out for tea or dinner with her family.
Five years older than me, Pam took photos, made soap, painted, decorated, sewed, cooked, and reveled in the rituals of life.
A wife, daughter, mother of two and step-mother of two more, Pam died of breast cancer at the age of thirty-two.
I was the photographer at her wedding. She wore a classic white dress with black boots and a red shawl. We stood in a circle at Beacon Hill Park and I watched her share bread, honey and a goblet of wine with her new family.
I learnt about the Tao from Pam. She taught me fashion staples were black, white and beige. Every time I make a card, I frame it with the lines and dots I saw her draw on hers.
When her stepdaughter got her period, she threw a party of women with wine, grape juice and really good advice. I did the same for mine.
– That’s called shock.
Says my First Aid instructor when I describe passing out in the hallway when Ian was dying.
I wonder what it was that made me say and do all the wrong things when Pam was fighting cancer.
Why did ‘Terms of Endearment’ come out of my mouth?
I was scared.
Pam fought hard. She went to Mexico and Germany for special treatments. We held a silent auction and a 5K Run to Dallas Road to help her but she got home with barely time to say goodbye. I’m surprised they let her on the plane.
I missed her last conscious moments by one ferry. When I sat down beside her, she was deep in the process. Cancer isn’t pretty.
I am relieved for Pam that she didn’t see me before she died and I pray that the fear I felt while sitting beside her didn’t make things worse.
– If nothing else, believe in art.
It says on the wall of the Vancouver Parker Street art studio.
Pam’s funeral was beautiful.
Her husband built her coffin and played guitar at the ceremony. Her cousins carried her to a horse drawn carriage and we walked together in the street following her to Ross Bay, a graveyard by the sea. We lowered her into the ground and said goodbye.
Dad went into business at nineteen, which meant his colleagues were a decade or two older than him. He went to a lot of funerals.
– When Mr. Sands saw me at the funeral home, he’d lift his hands as though he was measuring me for a coffin.
– The reason I go to funerals, Katie, is in case nobody else shows.
He tells me a story about a funeral where he was the only one there not family.
– I go for the family.
Sands Funeral Home. I’ll start there.