Saturday, February 11, 2006


On February third a long-time girlfriend’s mother died of pneumonia and complications with Parkinson’s. Janet Mary (nee Carlson) Johnson was 73. I’ve known her daughter Sandy since we met in Moby Dick’s bar in downtown Minneapolis in 1974. I remember visiting Sandy at her parent’s home many times and learning quickly there was always something sticky and sweet to be found in the kitchen’s bread drawer.

Jan and husband Jesse were characters who genuinely loved one another and were partners for the long haul through the rebellious-child parenting years and grandparenting years. I hadn’t seen Jan for years, but Jesse was right when he remarked at the open-casket wake on Thursday evening, “She looks like she’s sleeping.”

Yesterday’s funeral service was a beautiful tribute to Jan. Her Lutheran church in south Minneapolis was filled with people who knew and loved her. Family photos had been edited together onto a DVD along with a musical soundtrack that chronicled her life. Jan was known for her shelves of photo albums, a habit passed on to her daughters.

Jesse and Jan were married for 51 years and right through to laying her to rest Jesse gave her everything she ever wanted and needed. Bless both of them.

My heart ached during the service to see Sandy’s heart so obviously broken. The relationship between a mother and a daughter is a strong, complex bond. I find funerals to be sad and frightening, as I empathize with the bereaved and yet pray that I am not in those front pews anytime soon. Of course I will not be spared, nor will people who love me. However, believing there is something else – another existence - beyond this life takes the sting from those thoughts. Realizing, however, that we will not have our loved one with us in this life is the stuff for keening.

Friends and family are so important and we need to lean on each other in times like these. We should try to get together for occasions other than weddings and funerals.

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