“A casket is like a church: none will get you into heaven, none will keep you out. It is not about the accessories. Do the essentials right, and the rest will take care of itself.” (thomas lynch)
You may remember that The Bud and Jan Show had been going around for some time, planning how they would wrap up the loose ends on their lives. These conversations weren’t particularly doleful, just opinions stated in between Hardball with Chris Matthews and Emeril Live. And because they have both been strongly opinionated people and not always shared them, sometimes the conversation got lively. Ever the ardent conservationist, my mother-much to Bud’s chagrin- went to town and made pre-arrangements with Affordable Funerals to be cremated. No fuss, no muss. Bud, from some residual fragment of his German Lutheran upbringing, thought that was just not right. Beyond that he’s been swearing to build a private crypt on the only perkable piece of land at Lost Loon Lodge. He went so far as to get permission from the state department of public health to declare the place a private cemetery. Then, sometime last fall my mother had a tearful week where she exerted a lot of pressure on Bud to also sign up for the 1,000 Affordable Funeral plan and because, ultimately, Bud would do whatever it took to make Jan happy, he went to town himself, plunked down a thousand bucks and signed on the dotted line.
Yesterday I spoke with him on the phone and I continue to be amazed at Bud. With Bud, what you see is what you get. And it’s all good. He is at once simple and incredibly intelligent. He says what he means and so forth. So when I talk to him he says simply how very very sad he is. He misses mama. He cries a little. He is eager to have his children and grandchildren around him. He is starting, with Laurel’s help, to fold up some of my mother’s things. Lots of people have called and dropped by. The place isn’t the same without mama.
These conversations break my heart and touch at the fringes of how much I miss her and want her to still be here but I haven’t let myself fully go there yet. I’ll probably wait until I get on the Saab prop plane Thursday and let loose again over beverage service.
Then Bud said, “You know, today is a very hard day.” I was about to ask harder than yesterday or tomorrow? when he said, “Today is the day your mother is cremated and I don’t like that.” That’s how he says things- “I don’t like that.”
I said, “I know you don’t, Bud. and you’re a good man to respect her wishes.” And Bud said, “Oh well, of course I do. But you know when I had to go sign some last paper about something at the funeral home today, I took mine back.”
I knew exactly what he meant because he had already told me months ago that if my mother died before him there was “no way in hell” he was going to be cremated and he just signed that agreement to make my mother happy. Plus, he told her that, too. So I said, “Well, that’s okay, because we know that’s how you feel and we’ll respect your wishes, too. But between now and then there’s a lot to do, including your class reunion this year and so on.” And Bud said, “Oh, ya. Lots o’ stuff.” Sometimes, a little Yooper slips into his speech.
My sister Laurel is still there at Lost Loon Lodge, feeding and cleaning and cheering him on. My other sister, Betsy, tried to head home after ten days so she could get back to teaching at WMU and her own cats and husband and bed, only to drive east for 3 hours and get stranded in a snow storm in- you can guess this- Marquette. Home of the ICU marathon. This is where my friend Roxanne would insert “bless her heart.” Indeed, bless her heart. At last word she was still in Marquette but due in class today; I hope she made it.
Who has their obituary in The Daily Mining Gazette? That sounds like such a- what? Small town, ends of the earth, whoever heard of it newspaper? My mother, for one. It’s the newspaper of the Keweenaw Peninsula, stretching out into the heart of Lake Superior. And that’s where her heart was.
Janet Morrow Avery
GRATIOT LAKE – Janet Morrow Avery, 79, of Gratiot Lake,
Keweenaw County, died Saturday, March 11, 2006, at Marquette General
Hospital, after a valiant fight, from complications of pneumonia.
She was the beloved wife of Eugene “Bud” Avery; and mother of
Bruce Aller (Alison) of Upton, Mass; Vicki Bennett (Rich Luker) of Ann
Arbor, Betsy Aller (Andrew Kline) of Kalamazoo; and Laurel Avery-DeWitt
(Ian) of Oshkosh, Wis. Her dearly loved grandchildren are Daniel and
Abigail Bennett and Max Avery-DeWitt. She also leaves her former
son-in-law, Ed Kraai; her half-sister, Mary Ahlin; and her
half-brother, Edward Morrow.
Born December 3, 1926, to Richard Joseph Morrow and Elizabeth
Woodward Morrow in Waterbury, Conn., Janet graduated from Harbor High
School, Ashtabula, Ohio, and attended Kent State University before
moving to the Detroit area. She received her BA and MA from Wayne State
University, and she taught English and journalism at Liggett School and
Grosse Pointe North High School in the Detroit area. Later she taught
composition and technical writing in the Department of Humanities at
Michigan Technological University from 1981 to 1991. She was a
conscientious and caring teacher and was much loved by her students
over the years.
From childhood on, Janet longed to live near Lake Superior and in 1980,
she and Bud moved to their summer cottage on Gratiot Lake in Keweenaw
County. For the next 25 years, she worked to protect the environment of
the Keweenaw. Janet was an active and articulate citizen at local land
use planning meetings and she was instrumental in the early phases of
protecting Bete Gris from overdevelopment. As founder and president of
AWAKE (Association Working Against Keweenaw Exploitation), she
vigorously sought integrity and accountability for mining activities
proposed in the western Upper Peninsula and in Wisconsin.
Janet was an avid gardener and enjoyed literature, cooking, politics,
writing, and classical music. She cared greatly for her animals, and
her cats, Robert and Lady Jane, are adoptees from the Keweenaw Animal
Cremation was arranged by the O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home and a
memorial gathering in her honor will be held in the spring. Expressions
of support may be directed to the Janet M. Avery Memorial Scholarship
Fund at the Gratiot Lake Conservancy or to the Keweenaw Animal Alliance.
The family wishes to extend heartfelt thanks to Ray and Donna Peck and
to Ed Kraai for their support and friendship during this time; to the
outstanding and caring nurses and doctors at Marquette General
Hospital; and to all those who kept Janet and her family in their
thoughts and prayers during this time.
(Daily Mining Gazette, March 14)