Sunday, May 20, 2018

At A French Teacher's Funeral

Arlette Nelson  May 17, 1945    April 24, 2018  of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Arlette began her decline in mid-August.  Medical testing did not define her illness until mid-November.  Nina months later, dating from mid-August, she was dead,  And she wanted to go.  "Every morning I wake up and there is a little more gone," she said, during our visit to her on Thursday, March 29, 2017, in a hospice facility.

I mention this because most funerals are filled with tears of sorrow; her audience cried cheers of joy that she was free at last.  Speakers remembering her said some of these things. 

Arlette wore her hair short with as often as not, a spiky little piece poking up from the top/back of her hair.  In person I would tease her, "I see you got a hair cut " and at her puzzled look, would lift a strand of my hair in the same spot.  And we both guffawed.

At the funeral, a member of the French class who also had short hair, said that as she was preparing to go to the funeral, her husband indicated that she had some stick-up hair in the same spot.  She said, "No, no - let it be - it's my tribute to Arlette!"

Another woman remarked that she had heard Arlette speaking to granddaughter Jasmine in French at the dog park, so she introduced herself as a fellow French émigré and introduced her to a lot of other dog owners, all of whom remained fast friends and clustered in a knot in the back row.

A man remembered fondly that at about the mid-point of her class at the Hermosa Beach Community Center, unbidden, a man would appear with a steaming hot cup of coffee for her.  In mid-lesson, she would stop and thank him.  This speaker finished by saying, "If he'd asked her, I bet she would have married him!" so happy was she at the arrival of her coffee.

But the best anecdote was the true story her daughter told.  "We had finally got a house big enough to entertain in and she was in heaven - now she could entertain again as she loved nothing better than cooking for friends and family and using a lot of her and her mother's recipes for various French delectables.

"It was Easter and Mom was making the Easter dinner.  Whatever it was smelled so delicious that I wandered in with some of our guests and asked what it was?  "Ah," she purred - "it's rabbit with a lovely white wine cream sauce!"  She didn't understand why we all were screaming with laughter and looked a little affronted until it was explained to her that one of the American Easter rites was the Easter Bunny and then she laughed the hardest of all of us.  And we ate every bite, it was so good!"

The musical selections were:  a male member of the church singing and accompanying himself on guitar; the lyrics so the audience could sing, too, were flashed on big screens -  one on each side of the audience for easy visibility.  The second song was something no one in our row recognized but confirmed my suspicion that it was in Italian.  And the "it's over, you can get up now" song was -- wait for it, "Coming to America"!  As she did at age 23 and loved us ever since.

RIP Arlette, you've earned it.

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