Without saying a word, Rosemary gave her testimony Monday morning in a big church made cozy by the crowd.
Honored to be there were several hundred of her closest friends and friends of friends. Those who didn't know Rosemary left wishing they had, hoping one day they would, but still feeling as if they already did.
In sweet, poetic eulogies punctuated by laughter and necessary pauses unrehearsed, she was called Little Rosemary, The Rose and Rosemary. Also a mom and a wife, an aunt and a niece, a daughter and a sister, and a friend 'til the end.
An uncle was the first to eulogize. He looked at the stars Saturday, the first night since his niece had died of the cancer, just 45 she was, and he thought of a comet, how they come only rarely and last only a bit, but how they fire up the sky, the whole sky, when they do.
You can't ignore the comets when they come. They are too breathtakingly bright, too out of the ordinary, much too alive to dismiss.
We're grateful for life's comets.
One of Rosemary's younger friends, 6 or so, asked his mom one day recently, "How do you invite people to your funeral?" Odd question. It's hard to send out cards from beyond, even if you have the hostess skills of someone like Rosemary, who used words like "décor" in everyday conversation.
But the more the child's mom thought about it, the more she realized that the question was just what her mind and what her heart needed. You invite people to your funeral by doing what Rosemary did. You invite them with your life. With authenticity and a sweet spirit, you invite them by being the same on bright Sunday mornings as you are on weary Tuesday nights. You invite them by showing up with picnics in sunshine and umbrellas in rain, by sharing yourself both in joy and in grief.
You invite them by being a Rose, by "loving and giving and keeping on the sunny side, always on the sunny side."
From Rosemary, a lot of people received these once-in-a-lifetime invitations.
A wise friend who's known her since she was a baby hinted that Rosemary's imaginary invites might have carried an inscription borrowed from King David himself, who said at the end of his life, "Oh, how good it was to live!"
Bravely before a casket and floral spray stood Jana — "One of her 1,763 best friends!," Jana said. With economy and grace, Jana covered decades of ground, from Rosemary's little-girl bedroom until last month, when the two took a spur-of-the-moment trip out of the country, at Rosemary's request. And so it happened that on a recent summer evening, the two found themselves sailing with sea breeze all around, with Sinatra singing in the background, with endless stars above, with Mexico in the rearview, the bright blue Pacific below and beyond.
"This," Rosemary said, tasting the moment, "is heaven."
No. Not even close. Not really.
But she knows that now.
-- The Times, The News-Star, Sunday, Sept 6, 2009