According to the doctor, Audrey's time with us would be drawing to a close and likely very soon.
Years of numbing heart ache over Audrey's condition had already prepared my folks for her departure, but what of their youngest? It's one thing to tell the child that her sister would be going to live with Jesus but how to explain the funeral and the sight of one's sibling laid out in a casket?
So with that in mind, as a way of preparing me, Mother took me to the local funeral home.
In those days before SCI and other corporations turned the funeral services into an industry, funeral homes were just that; homes where one could hold a funeral. Ours was a big house built in the early part of the 20th century with a deep front porch. The front hall featured an elegant stairway with an elaborate banister and an unusual light fixture shaped to look like an elfin creature who balanced a multicolored globe on its elfin foot. I loved that light and always wished I could see it lit up sometime.
To the right of the hallway was a display room for the caskets and it was this room that my Mother wanted me to see. The funeral director's wife was a very kind woman with slivered white hair. She was also a good friend of my Mother's and I imagine she must have felt my Mother's pain at this moment very keenly. Mother/Daughter outings should be to shopping centers or the park, not to a casket display room. But, here we were.
The moment I first laid eyes on a casket stands sharp in my memory. Jewel toned with gold or silver accents, their lids opened to reveal rich interiors of velvet or satin. They were just like...giant jewelry boxes! They were beautiful!
I am sure that the women were likely explaining to me what a casket was, how it was used and all but their voices faded to a low hum in my head as I stood in stunned amazement at the sight of so much splendid beauty. What pretty boxes! Oh, how I wished I might have a box like one of these one day! I could keep my best dolls in it, put a mirror over it...
What's that you say? Mother's voice came back into focus in my head. These boxes were not for me, but someday Audrey would have one. Oh, that's good. Maybe I could play with it for her...wait a minute! Boxes...these things are boxes...
Of course! Suddenly I recalled seeing boxes like this coming out of the church next door and out of the church across the street. Bedecked in flowers, the boxes would be carried slowly to the big car parked in front of the church. In answer to my question over the contents, I was told that it contained people now going to live with Jesus and this was their send off ceremony.
I would watch as the box was loaded into the big car and then the big car would go ever so slowly towards downtown with all the other cars following behind. Of course they were headed for the cemetery but I didn't know about that place yet. I did however know that downtown was where the post office was and that is where boxes came from and went to.
Now it made sense to me! When you go to live with Jesus, you get a box. At the end of the send off ceremony, you get in your box and get taken with great fanfare to the post office where the post master would weigh you in and then put you on the back dock for the truck to pick up.
This is how you went to live with Jesus, via a box sent parcel post. When you got to heaven, Jesus would open the box and then there'd you be with Jesus and the angels. What you did with your box after that, I had no idea. Keep your spare halos and harps in it? Who knew, just so long as it was pretty!
I smiled up at Mother and the funeral lady who in turned seemed satisfied that I had understood what they had told me which of course I didn't on account of I hadn't listened to a word they had said.
Once again, I had figured it out all for myself and knowing that sister was going to go to Jesus in a pretty box made me feel a little better over her going off without me to live with Jesus and fly in the moonlight.
And naturally, I didn't share a word of this with anyone.