The Hellhole

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Remembering Helly

Today was Helly’s memorial service. It was probably a little less than an hour long, with her Uncle Larry speaking first, then Helly’s boss of 27 years Sandy Jones spoke for a few minutes, and after he spoke I said a few words. And yes, I took out my phone and took a picture of the people in the chapel, because I'll want to remember later just how many people were there.

As per my request and going by what I knew Helly would have wanted, it was not a religious ceremony. No hymns were sung, no prayers offered, and her uncle, who is a retired Methodist minister, spoke as her uncle and not as a minister. The memorial opened with “Le Mer,  From Dawn to Noon On The Sea (Movement 1)” by Debussy, one of Helly’s favorite classical pieces, as played by the Greenville Symphony Orchestra where Helly’s brother plays double bass and is their Director of Education. "Amazing Grace" played at the very end, and keeping with Helly’s Scots/Irish heritage it was a version played on bagpipes.

I have to admit I was overwhelmed at the number of people at the memorial service. I knew that there were going to be friends and family there, but the chapel at the funeral home was overflowing with people, and there were even people in a parlor off to the side listening in. Seeing that many people there to remember Helly was really amazing. We had a friend who flew in from Austin, TX, and one of my cousins came in from Ithaca, NY, along with his mom from Asheville, NC. Several of my former coworkers, both from my most recent job and the job before that were there, as were many of Helly’s coworkers and business colleagues and acquaintances. I spoke to quite a few people before and after the service, and everyone had a great Helly story or remembrance.

Now I’m home, with a box containing Helly’s ashes and the guest book from the service, and the closure of 10 years of marriage. But life goes on: come Monday morning I need to start looking for a new job, meaning I need to update my resume and LinkedIn profile, get a portfolio website put together, and start making lists of companies I want to apply to. Helly’s friend Cheryl, who is a paralegal, has given me a checklist of things to start on so I can get the probate process moving forward, and on Tuesday I meet with one of Helly’s friends at the bank to move all our joint accounts into my name. I’ve got the dogs to take care of, and the house to keep up, and a list of projects I need to tackle. I’ve got stuff to keep me busy and friends and family to keep tabs on me, but I know it will be a struggle for a while as I work though it.

I’m going to end this with the text of my remarks at Helly’s service. I went a little bit “off script” from time to time, but this is the gist of what I said:

“Thank you everyone for being here. Helly hated being the center of attention, but I'm sure she would have been flattered knowing how many people were willing to be here today to remember her. I know some of you traveled quite a ways to be here - one of my cousins is here from Ithaca, NY, his mom is here from Asheville, and one of our very good friends is here from Austin, TX. I also see some of Helly's friends from the Mart, her coworkers, people from our tai chi class, and a lot of friends and family and extended family, all people who loved Helly and wanted to be here to say goodbye.

I'll keep this short. Helly had a saying that she'd use whenever we were driving along and listening to the radio and the DJ would start droning on: Less Yakkin', More Rockin'! Then she'd start surfing around the radio channels trying to find  someone playing music instead of talking. "I don't care what's on," she'd say, "I just want to know what else MIGHT be on..."

I'm sure some of you have noticed that I'm not wearing proper funeral attire. And indeed, this was a major pet peeve of Helly's. If she was here now I would have never been allowed to leave the house dressed like this. However, there is a reason I'm wearing this shirt - this was the first thing Helly ever bought me. When we started dating she took one look at my wardrobe, which was mostly dark blue, dark green, gray, and black, and I'm quoting her, "all the colors of a bruise..." and decided I needed something with stripes. A week or so after she bought it for me, I wore it work, but didn't really think much about it. About an hour after I had been at work, my  boss, who was a woman, and several of my female coworkers surrounded my desk, and my boss asked - "who is she?" I replied that I wasn't sure what she was talking about, so she said, " would have never bought that shirt yourself, and I know you haven't been home to visit your folks in a while, so your mom didn't buy that. So someone bought that for you... who is she?" So that's how they found out I was dating Helly, and that is one of my favorite stories to tell whenever I wear this shirt or just see it in the closet. So, that's why I'm wearing this shirt. I'm also wearing the pocket watch she bought me just a few months ago for our 10th anniversary, but I don't have a funny story about the watch. It's just a really nice watch...

Even though Helly wasn't a religious person, I still like think that she's enjoying a nice afterlife. Not one with cherubs and harps and all that, but more like one filled with dogs and cats and books and music.  We were members at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and there is a beautiful water feature there with a pool and waterfall, and a giant earth goddess made out of plants who has water flowing from her outstretched hand into a pool. Whenever Helly and I would go to the Garden, maybe six or seven times a year over the past three years, this was somewhere we would always stop, and it was often the first place we went to when we arrived. We'd sit there and relax for a half hour or so, and then go to see whatever exhibit or event we originally came to the Garden for.

So in my mind, she's somewhere like that - on a nice fall day, because Helly hated sweating, and sitting on a bench, because she hated the thought of sitting on the ground and getting dirty almost as much as she hated the thought of sweating - with a stack of books to choose from, fun games on her iPad, updates to all her favorite blogs and websites, and all her favorite music available. No yakkin', just rockin'. There is a cheese plate nearby, and since it's her afterlife she's enjoying a glass of wine too. Sprocket and Finnovar are curled up on the bench with her, and every now and then Fudge and Smidgen and Satchel and Bucky come by. She knows that one by one three little chihuahuas will eventually show up, but that won't be for a while yet because they've still got to keep me company for some years to come. She doesn't mind; she's got plenty of time. She's happy, healthy, whole, and free of pain.

So that's where I see her, happy and at peace, with the things she loved around her, and probably wondering why we're making such a big fuss. And that's where I want you to think of her, whenever she might cross your mind. 

Again, thank you all for coming today.”

And thank you all for reading this. This blog is the best way to remember Helly - I've been told by several friends that they'll just pick a random date and start reading from there and re-remembering all the funny stories.

To close, I'm going to link to two songs by Neko Case, one of my absolute favorite artists and someone who is amazing to see live. I would honestly pay money to see Neko just open a phone book and start singing the words on the page.

The first is Helly's favorite, a live version of "I Wish I Was The Moon" off the album Blacklisted (2002).

The second is one of my favorites, "Magpie To The Morning" off the album Middle Cyclone (2009).

I'm going to include the lyrics for "Magpie To The Morning," because I find the last verse very comforting right now.

"Magpie To The Morning"

Magpie comes a-calling, drops a marble from the sky,
Tin roof sounds alarming, wake up child,
Let this be a warning, says the magpie to the morning,
Don't let this fading summer pass you by,
Don't let this fading summer pass you by,

Black hands held so high,
The vulture wheels and dives,
Something on the thermals yanked his chain,
He smelled your boring apex,
Rotting on the train tracks,
He laughed under his breath because you thought that you could outrun sorrow,

Take your own advice,
This thundering and lightning gets you rain,
You run an airtight mission, a Cousteau expedition,
to find a diamond at the bottom of the drain,
A diamond at the bottom of the drain,

(Here I go)
Mockingbird sings in the middle of the night,
All his songs are stolen so he hides,
He stole them out from whiporwills,
And screaming car alarms,
He sings them for you special,
He knows you're afraid of the dark,

Come on, sorrow, take your own advice,
Hide under the bed, turn out the light,
Stars this night in the sky are ringing out,
You can almost hear them saying,
Close your eyes now kid,
Close your eyes now kid,
Morning's teeth are lit,
They are waiting,
They are waiting.

Helen Michelle Aurora Bowman
September 15th, 1966 - September 1st, 2016
Beloved wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, and friend
Rest now, angel, you are forever my sweetheart


  • I'm sorry that I couldn't be there, it sounds like the perfect send off. I'm not religious, but I cheat and believe in the rainbow bridge for pets and friends. I know that Helly is doing a great job looking after my furry & feathered kids. I'm glad you still have some kids to keep an eye on you - snuggles don't fix pain, but they certainly help.

    By Anonymous Nancy R, at 8:19 PM  

  • Thank you for posting this. I hope you keep writing here. I'll keep reading.

    By Blogger Nancy H, at 1:13 PM  

  • Thank you for sharing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home