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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)

TITLE: Bittersweet Memories (ii)
By Scarlett Farr


“They are driving me CRAZY”, I sobbed into the phone as my dearest friend listened to my nearly incoherent rant. “They” are family. My family has issues. As my brother likes to remind me, we put the fun in dysfunction.

But this particular family event wasn’t supposed to be dysfunctional. I had convinced myself that as my father’s death grew closer, we would finally realize we are supposed to love each other and, figuratively speaking, hold hands and sing Kum Ba Yah around his hospice bed. It was not to be.

As he was drew last breaths, snarls, sharp words and dirty looks were tossed about freely. Two distinct camps formed and there wasn’t a mediator alive that could bring the two factions together. Funeral plans were made by one group and details withheld from the other group. One group went through Dad’s things, looking for a keepsake as a remembrance of him, the other group got nothing.

When my father died, no one was standing by him to comfort him or whisper loving words to him. Two had just left the room and two, who were in opposing camps and not speaking to each other, had just arrived in the room. Others, who had been banished under threat of restraining orders, had not been to visit for days.

So that is how my father died, his family ripped apart and feuding -- again. He was in a coma so one group was sure he didn't know what was happening and didn‘t bother to mask their feelings. The other group was sure he did know and are convinced he went to meet his Maker devastated by the bitterness he left behind. During the visitation and funeral we continued the side show for all my father’s last visitors to see. The bitterness utterly destroyed the already strained relationships that had simmered for years and exploded in the days, months and years after the funeral.

Five years later, the roles are reversed. I listen to my friend quietly tell me her dearly beloved father-in-law, who has been like a father to her for over thirty years, just passed away. We were now even more closely bound in friendship by the loss of a parent, but hers was a very different experience.

As her father-in-law drew his last breaths, phone calls were made to bring the family together. Everyone arrived quickly. Nearly a dozen family members stood around his bed, each with a hand touching his arm, leg, head. His labored breathing was replaced by relaxed breathing. Although he had been comatose all day, he raised his head slightly, opened his eyes, flashed a smile and met his Maker, completely content in the sweetness that filled the room that very moment. Afterward, the family stayed together for hours, drinking coffee, recounting memories, laughing and crying together.

In a few days, the family will come together to say their final goodbyes. One will preach the funeral, several will deliver eulogies and one will sing a favorite song. All were encouraged to participate in what will be a celebration of love for their patriarch.

As I sit in the church, ready to provide support to my friend in her time of need, I am sure I will pause to remember the day she did the same for me. It will be a bittersweet memory. As the full weight of how her family reacted to death settles on me I have come to realize my family lost so much more than a father five years ago. We lost forever an opportunity to share our love, lean on one another and most importantly, be the family that God intended us to be. I pray that when the time comes for my family to gather for the next funeral, the others will have been quietly and gracefully witnessed to by a dear friend who can demonstrate what real family love looks like so that we can claim it for our own.

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This article has been read 687 times
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Sara Harricharan 06/04/09
I know how it is to have, large fueding families. You captured this well and also the thoughts and atsmophere during such a time. Good contrast from the top to the bottom scenario. Nice job.
Gregory Kane06/06/09
I like the way that your intense negatives are perfectly balanced by the strong positives in the second part
Phee Paradise 06/08/09
This was really well written, especially the contrast. But I would have liked to hear a bit more about the narrator's role in the first death, and in the family feuds. I felt the narrator was watching the children fight, but not a part of it or doing anything to resolve it.
Karlene Jacobsen06/08/09
Quite a contrast, eh? Wow! Good writing. This is probably why we are to make the most of every moment.
diana kay06/10/09
i like this and the two illustrations. I felt that I had heard quite enough of the first family! Maybe you could try and think of alternative titles for this peice as it is suggested not to use the theme in the title. I thought up 'Family fun.' (you mention this in the first.) or 'Does family always have to be like this?' or even 'different endings' lots of possibilities.
Colin Swann06/10/09
A very well written piece. Very interesting and challenging about the importance of good relationships. Well done - you will soon be moving up! Colin
Carol Slider 06/10/09
After your portrayal of the first "bitter" death, I'm so glad you provided a positive contrast. Well written, with a lot of real emotion and truth!
Mona Purvis06/10/09
Situations that bring out the best in us...and the worst. This is a very thought-provoking piece.
Beth LaBuff 06/10/09
I always wonder who "they" were. :) I had to smile at the "we put the fun in dysfunction." :) Your story is very sad. The contrast between the two experiences is very good.
Brenda Rice 06/10/09
I couldn't help but think about my own family when we faced the loss of our mother four years ago. Your take on this subject is real and flows well. Thankfully, we are more like the friends family. I enjoyed the read.