A New Way to Mourn: An Update

michael barbaro

Hey, it’s Michael. This week, The Daily is revisiting our favorite episodes of the year, listening back and hearing what’s happened in the time since they first ran. Today: the story of the new rituals that we create in a crisis. It’s Tuesday, December 29. Catherine, I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about what you’ve been watching from your home in Toronto ever since the pandemic started hitting North America.

catherine porter

Well, I have written a lot about death over the years. It’s one of those things that, for whatever reason, it interests me and I keep coming back to it. So because I’ve always been interested in death and written about death, I’ve been looking through the birth and death notices. And the obits have been really interesting because something that I’d never seen before at the bottom — whether or not the person had died of Covid, many of them have died just of old age or of cancer, or whatever else — but at the bottom, I started to highlight these statements that seem to repeat themselves over and over again, which were things like: “Though we cannot celebrate her life now, a happier time will come when we can all come together,” or “A celebration of her life will be celebrated when it’s safe for us to be together. We will get together when we’re allowed to get together.”

[music]

And so that planted a seed, a thought in me. The public part of mourning is ritualized in our society by coming together. We come together and we acknowledge the passing, and we have a sense that this is real and we are grieving together. And if this isn’t happening or we’re delaying this, what does that mean? How are people coping without that ritual? Is anyone trying to do this differently?

So then I found kind of the perfect person for this.

interviewer

Who did you find?

catherine porter

Can you see us on your computer screen, or no?

wayne irwin

No, I’m talking on my phone. I’ve got my wig on straight, but it doesn’t matter.

catherine porter

[LAUGHS] Oh I, really wish we could see you then, in that case.

wayne irwin

[LAUGHS]

catherine porter

His name is Wayne Irwin. He’s 75. He’s a retired minister at a church in Canada called the United Church of Canada. It’s kind of the preeminent Protestant Church here.

catherine porter

Can you tell me why you think funerals are important?

wayne irwin

The funeral is not for the person who died. The funeral is for the person who remains.

catherine porter

He was a minister for more than 40 years, meaning that he presided over hundreds of funerals.

michael barbaro

Wow.

catherine porter

He’s sort of a master of ceremonies at a funeral. He knows how they work. He knows the importance of the ritual.

wayne irwin

And they are a marker for us. They’re like a life passage moment that we can remember, OK, the person died. We did that thing, so now we’re in a world after that.

catherine porter

But in the ten years since he retired, he’s also been helping churches go online. So he was kind of like the perfect person to move from a funeral in a building into an online funeral. And then something tragic happened in his personal life and he lost someone very close to him, Flora May.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.” Today, my colleague, Catherine Porter, on the changing way that we’re grieving in the era of the coronavirus.

[music]

It’s Friday, April 24th.

catherine porter

Can we go over your plans, but also just talk a little bit about Flora and about this time for you, Wayne?

wayne irwin

Yes. Yes, that’s fine, but I tend to — you know, the older you get, one story leads to another.

catherine porter

Yeah, but that’s the beauty of being old, and also of hearing stories, right?

wayne irwin

[CHUCKLES] I know.

catherine porter

I mean, very often asked a question and it’s a wrong question, and you’ll start answering it and you’ll realize what a better question was. So tell me a bit about your love story, will you?

wayne irwin

Our love story?

catherine porter

Mm-hmm.

wayne irwin

Oh geesh, I don’t know. That’s a complicated thing. Flora and I knew each other for many, many years in church work and in committees and all of that. And we were involved in a ministry where we taught prayer and meditation and helped churches across the country with their prayer programming, and all of that.

catherine porter

They met way back in the early ‘70s. He was married and she, I believe, was either married or recently divorced, but soon to get divorced. And Wayne tells the story about going to a church music workshop with a youth group. And at lunch, holding his cafeteria tray, scanning the room, looking for a place to set it down and eat, there was a space next to this short, very small, brown-eyed woman.

wayne irwin

I’ll sit with that person. Went around and sat down. It was Flora.

catherine porter

It was her, Flora May.

wayne irwin

That was how we met, both of us introverts.

catherine porter

She grew up not far from where I’m talking to you, in the countryside outside of Toronto. She was a farm girl. In fact, one of her friends told me that before she went to high school, every morning she had to collect the eggs from more than 300 hens.

michael barbaro

[LAUGHS]

catherine porter

Yeah.

catherine porter

What was she like as a person?

wayne irwin

Well, she was an angel and a saint all wrapped into one, because she was the sweetest and most tremendously deep. And so we had deep, deep conversations in theology and philosophy together.

catherine porter

Very quickly, within about two years, they started collaborating. She had really great musical skills, but also was a poet and wrote a lot.

wayne irwin

Then she started writing her own stuff, way back, and that’s something she would do. When she was sitting somewhere, she’d often put some words together.

catherine porter

And so they started collaborating doing new hymns together and writing songs. He would put her lyrics to music. And over time, both of them became single parents. And about 20 years ago, he says, when they were both single at that point, they had an awakening, that they both sort of looked at each other and realized that they were in love and they had been in love. By that point, Flora was in her 70s. And when he did propose, he was substantially younger than her, 15 years. And he said she laughed hysterically because she couldn’t envision being married to him and he was so much younger than her. So he said, well, I took the proposal back and said, well, maybe we’ll do this at another time when it’s not so uproariously funny to you. And he proposed again with a crossword puzzle. And she literally went to her children and asked for permission, basically, to get married again and for advice. And she agreed. They got married and they had lived this wonderful second life together.

catherine porter

Do you have a favorite memory of her?

wayne irwin

I guess my most favorite memory is the moment I saw her on our wedding day for the first time. She literally took my breath away, literally. I gasped. Just whoof, it was that kind of thing. Anyway, that’s my favorite memory. But yes, we did all of England and Scotland and Wales and Ireland, so we did all that. And then we went through the Panama Canal and did all of that.

catherine porter

They traveled up to Alaska. They walked up Mount Sinai.

wayne irwin

In the middle of the night so that we could be on top at sunrise. So we’ve done things like that together.

catherine porter

They went to Antarctica when she was in her 80s, late 80s.

catherine porter

Wow. I mean, there’s not very many people who’ve been to Antarctica. So when you say we’ve done things like that, you know, we went to the moon. We’ve done those things.

wayne irwin

[LAUGHS]

catherine porter

You know, you know.

catherine porter

And up until last summer, they were traveling in Europe together. And it wasn’t until then, he says, that she sat up in bed one night in Rome and said, I can’t breathe.

wayne irwin

She was living with, I think I told you, Catherine, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which was only the last six months that the symptoms began to appear.

catherine porter

And slowly, their world started to get smaller and smaller.

wayne irwin

There were times when she would say, I’m so scared. I’m so scared. And it was because she was oxygen-starved. It was like someone who’s drowning. And I was feeling great angst, wanting to somehow help her not be scared. And all I could do was get the oxygen on, and things like that.

catherine porter

By March, the world around her is worried about COVID. And she became very worried that she would get this and it would be an awful death, as did her husband. So her life that was already smaller became even smaller. They stopped taking so many visitors because they were worried about the spread and her getting it, and they would spend their days mostly together. So on a Sunday at the end of March, they were having a quiet day.

wayne irwin

She had dinner with us. And when I say us, I had a dear friend who’s a public health nurse, who lives just around the corner. And we were live-streaming the worship from the Sunday up on the flat screen here, and Flora would sit and watch that with Marianne while I looked after the techie stuff. And then she went and Flora said, make sure to tell Marianne thanks for being here, and then Flora slept. And then about 6:30, I said, I’ve made some soup. You need to get up and have some soup. And so she pulled herself up on my arm and walked the three or four steps over to where she would sit down to eat, and as she was sitting down, she gave a couple of coughs and was gone, just like that. And I was holding onto her. I had no idea of how the end of her life would occur. I didn’t know what would occur. And so I’m holding her, and I’m saying, she’s gone. And then I’m lamenting. I just was saying, oh my love, my love, my love, my love. I just kept saying that as I held her. I was just holding her, saying that. And that was what I was needing to say and do and feel.

catherine porter

Wow. That sounds beautiful, but also incredibly shocking.

wayne irwin

Well, it was. It was. But over 41 years I was a pastor, so I mean, I’ve been present on numerous occasions at the end of life of people. It’s such an intimate profession. So I mean, it wasn’t shocking in some ways because I’d been there before with others. I knew this was the moment. I knew she was done, and she was. Yeah.

michael barbaro

That’s beautiful.

catherine porter

Yeah. It sounds like a pretty perfect death, doesn’t it, in many ways, to be held? Particularly at a time now, when so many people can’t hold their loved ones. He recognizes how lucky that was, that he was with her and holding her when she passed.

wayne irwin

But I’ve had my weepy days in between. Yesterday was a weepy day, but today not so much. And that’s fine. I know how grief works. It’s an emotion and we don’t decide. And one can break into tears at any moment from anything. But your first year, it’s up and down. Three months, six months, there are always dips, 12 months. I know that. But it’s funny. Knowing this, the other day I’m sobbing, and meanwhile I’m analyzing. I’m sobbing and saying, well, it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing you’re sobbing. And meanwhile I’m sobbing. I just was amused at myself. I was saying, it’s good. Just keep on sobbing, but just notice you are.

[music]
michael barbaro

What happens in the days after Flora dies? How does Wayne, this man is so well-versed in the familiar traditional rituals of death, try to cope with it?

catherine porter

He knew that he had to start planning for her funeral. He set about doing that immediately. And for him, when I asked him if he thought about delaying this funeral, he said, absolutely not. Not for a second. So when you see the bottom of her obit, it says an online celebration of life will take place on Saturday, April 11 at 10:30 a.m. at this website, with online visitation also available from 9:30. In lieu of flowers, please send donations here.

michael barbaro

And what do his preparations for this online service look like?

catherine porter

Well, in my mind, I had this image of him as being like a switchboard operator.

wayne irwin

Now, the service itself is a video.

catherine porter

He starts calling people and asking them if they can contribute something, or would they like to contribute something?

wayne irwin

Family, and people out West and down East, and all that sort of thing.

catherine porter

He’s talking to the organist at the church.

wayne irwin

The organist who’s playing —

catherine porter

And going through what hymns she’d like to play.

wayne irwin

One minister is functioning in her home.

catherine porter

He’s reaching out. To the woman who sang at their wedding.

wayne irwin

So that people can sing along if they want to.

catherine porter

He’s reaching out to the grandchildren and asking them to contribute, even just small, little pieces, like 15 seconds of little memory snippets, recording them on Skype or using their own cell phones.

wayne irwin

Our daughter did a four-minute —

catherine porter

The service begins to take this shape.

wayne irwin

And we have stitched it all together into a service. So the remembrances are all stitched together as part of the service.

catherine porter

And he’s trying to basically number them all, slot them all, and getting them all in order so that on the day of the service, at the time of the service, that everyone sitting at home can press a button and watch the service at the same time.

catherine porter

So you will be literally alone tomorrow during this service, but you will be joining your loved ones and then watching your loved ones on Zoom participate in the service at the same time?

wayne irwin

Yes. Yes.

catherine porter

OK.

wayne irwin

And we can mute each other in case we’re out of tune.

catherine porter

I see. Isn’t that part of the funeral experience?

wayne irwin

Yes, of course.

catherine porter

He did acknowledge that this was not what they wanted, that they would have much rather been together, but this is where we are at. He said, I’ve done so many of these and they just take a life of their own, and you do the best you can do. And it will be what it will be.

catherine porter

OK. All right, well, we’ll see you tomorrow.

wayne irwin

All righty. Thank you. Bye bye now.

catherine porter

Have a good night. Bye.

wayne irwin

Bye.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

So Catherine, the next morning, what happens?

catherine porter

Wayne says he gets up. He has his breakfast. He listens to some music. And then he gets dressed as if he was in person at the funeral. He wore a special tie he bought in Damascus. It’s his Easter tie. He said he put on his shoes that were tight and uncomfortable but would remind him of the formality of the moment and the importance of the moment. And then about an hour before the service was to start, he started to work on the Zoom visitation.

wayne irwin

Hi, Bruce.

Hello, Bruce, can you hear me?

Hi Warren. Can you hear me, Warren?

I cannot hear you, Warren. Turn on your mic.

Let’s see, maybe I can turn it on. You can hear me, eh?

bruce

Yes, sir.

wayne irwin

OK. Thanks for joining us, Bruce. We’re just getting going here.

catherine porter

It wasn’t smooth at first, although there was something marvelous about the technical difficulties that were happening.

wayne irwin

Bruce, can you hear us, Bruce?

bruce

I can hear you, yes.

catherine porter

Yes.

bruce

Hello?

wayne irwin

Hello? We can hear you, too.

bruce

I’m here. Can you hear me now? OK.

wayne irwin

Yes, we can. Yes.

catherine porter

Like these things are always awkward, people coming in and paying their respects. It’s always a bit awkward. People don’t know what to say.

wayne irwin

We can talk to each other, you know. You can turn your mics on. We can talk to each other.

catherine porter

And each person is kind of waiting to step in and say something.

wayne irwin

[CLEARING THROAT]

catherine porter

And in some ways, all of these technical difficulties sort of substituted for that awkwardness.

wayne irwin

Can you hear us, Joe?

joe

I can hear you. Can you hear me?

wayne irwin

Yes, we can hear you and we can see you.

joe

OK, good.

wayne irwin

How is life in Montreal?

joe

Well, it’s pretty good. And how are you down there?

I mean, I’m not used to this yet. We’re all a little bit nervous with this, I guess, eh?

wayne irwin

Well, yes. We’re getting more used to it.

joe

Yeah.

wayne irwin

Oh, I see. There’s a couple of people waiting to come in here. I’m not sure —

catherine porter

There was an old friend of Flora’s came on, and it was clear that she had never done this before.

bev williams

Can you hear me yet?

wayne irwin

Yes, we can hear you, Bev. Can you hear us?

bev williams

I can hear you now. I got my board here.

wayne irwin

OK, good.

bev williams

Oh, well, I’m really sorry. We’re really going to miss Flora.

catherine porter

But Wayne became the minister of the moment.

wayne irwin

Oh, Linda. It’s Linda and Ron over in Grand Bend. Bev Williams up in Waterloo.

catherine porter

There are people arriving from New Jersey.

wayne irwin

How’s the weather in New Jersey?

ron

It is sunny for the first time in weeks.

catherine porter

And Vancouver and —

wayne irwin

Oh, there’s Bourgana in Spain.

bourgana

Yes, yes.

wayne irwin

Hey.

bourgana

I don’t know if you can hear me.

wayne irwin

Yes.

bourgana

Can you hear me?

wayne irwin

Bourgana, yes, we can.

bourgana

OK. I am really sorry for all of this loss in this hard time for everybody.

catherine porter

He started introducing one another.

wayne irwin

He made a lot of soup for Flora.

catherine porter

Calling on each person, welcoming them into the room.

wayne irwin

That’s the rest of Flora’s family there, I imagine. Well, there’s Warren up in, I don’t know, in the gallery view. Can you see the gallery view, Joe?

joe

Yes, I do.

catherine porter

And allowing them that moment to step forward and introduce themselves to the other members of the family that all gathered.

wayne irwin

And there’s Sandra.

catherine porter

And say hello and says it’s so great to see you.

wayne irwin

Doris. We can see you, Doris. Can you hear us?

doris

Good morning, yes.

wayne irwin

Good morning, Doris. Doris is part of the so-called Golden Girls. How many of you — who were there? There were seven of you?

doris

Six.

wayne irwin

Six of you?

doris

Six.

catherine porter

It slowly took on a life of its own. Yes, there are 40 of us in here now, and here’s some more coming in.

carlos

Hi, Wayne.

wayne irwin

Hi, Carlos.

carlos

We just wanted to send our condolences and love to you, Sandra, Warren, and the rest of the family.

[dogs barking]

Sorry, the dogs are barking in the background.

wayne irwin

They’re the ones that have the two Dachshunds named Oscar and Ike.

catherine porter

Remembering Flora and bringing memories of her farm.

friend

She used to go skating as a child, a little pond.

doris

Because the six of us used to have pajama parties at each other’s homes. We just laughed and giggled and had a wonderful, fun time all those years.

wayne irwin

So you got on there Claire and Mary?

mary

Yes, we did, thank you.

friend

Yes, we did.

catherine porter

The funny little poem that she gave someone.

friend

I love you much. I love you mighty. I wish my pajamas were next to your nightie. [LAUGHTER] Now don’t be mistaken. Now don’t be misled. I mean on the clothes line and not in the bed. [LAUGHTER] I don’t have memories back as far as Doris or Helen. My memories, I think I first met Wayne, you and Flora, in ‘95 possibly in Sudbury.

wayne irwin

Yes.

friend

And you were really, really important to me at that point. I’m going to cry.

bourgana

I was a broken human being when we met, you remember. I went through some difficult time, my divorce. And Flora and you always greeted me with open arms and I never forget this. This will stay with me forever.

allison

Wayne?

wayne irwin

Yes. Bernie and Allison in Burlington.

allison

Yes. We hear you, Wayne. We send our condolences to you, Wayne.

wayne irwin

Well, Flora always had a special place in her heart for both of you.

allison

We did, too.

bernie

I know. A longtime friend. We had many, many memories, good memories of Flora.

wayne irwin

Yes.

allison

And this is very sad.

wayne irwin

Thank you.

bernie

Thank you.

allison

Yeah. This is an amazing way to celebrate a life, Wayne. Thank you so much for doing this.

wayne irwin

Thank you. Oh, there’s more people coming in. I’m going to mute everybody now and I’m going to get the video ready to get started. So I’m just going to share the screen and get that ready.

Can you hear me all?

Just having a glitch, of course, just on the website part. I’ll just get the service going here.

[music]
catherine porter

So then the service begins. And I’m sitting at home in my office, watching the service, and it was everything Wayne had described. There were very, very traditional elements of it.

minister

Friends, welcome to St. Paul’s United Church. We are gathered electronically to worship God and to celebrate the life of Flora May Litt.

catherine porter

Two ministers speaking, one from home in an armchair and one in the church, which is a beautiful church, you can see. But he was incredibly close. Like instead of seeing a minister up at the pulpit from the distance, you could see his face, as if you could reach out and touch his crooked mustache. I kept looking at how his mustache was crooked. He was so incredibly close.

minister

And in our hope of your eternal care through Christ our Lord. Amen.

catherine porter

And then —

[organ playing]

The organist playing with his husband and the hymn rolling down the screen.

wayne irwin

Oh, Christ in me, my soul hath come and —

catherine porter

And there was a little girl dancing and the slide show with music. And it really, to me, felt so much like a mix between a funeral and a wake. There were so many hands.

[flute playing]
daughter

Mom, for as long as I can remember, you were always by my side.

granddaughter

My Grandma was always writing and putting words together beautifully.

friend

What can you say about Flora? She was many things to many people.

granddaughter

I love you and I miss you, Grandma.

friend

We will miss her terribly. We love you, Flora. You were a beautiful child of God.

warren

Good morning. I’m Flora’s son, Warren. Well, I think I’m ready for this. I had a big bowl of oatmeal this morning. And I can hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, it will stick to your ribs and get you ready for whatever the day will bring.

My mom wrote in her spiritual autobiography in 1996

catherine porter

And then at the same time people were still in the Zoom room. So you could not only watch the service, if you had been in the Zoom room, you could watch other people and get this element of other people’s reactions. You could see them singing. You could see them crying, which I think, for many people, you need almost a permission to cry. So seeing other people crying is very soothing.

michael barbaro

You could watch other people watching this funeral.

catherine porter

Yeah. And there was Wayne and he was in his beautiful tie and his beautiful suit, and he was singing when the hymns were there.

[music]
friend

(SINGING) I am a child of God. I am a glimpse of God’s new creation. I am a child of God.

catherine porter

And he was super absorbed in listening to the minister. And he was snacking at one point.

michael barbaro

[CHUCKLES]

catherine porter

And during the playing of “Hallelujah,” he was in tears. He was showing the full range of emotions and seemed incredibly gripped and present with the service.

michael barbaro

Right, this very thing that he had created.

catherine porter

Yeah. Yeah. Like he said, you can set the train rolling, but then it will do what it will do. And there was all of the parts he had brought together, but the magic, also, of the moment, of all these contributions of people, what they said and their memories of his wife. All these elements of community, he was feeling, as he says, nourished by them and held by them.

wayne irwin

Flora, go gently into God’s deeper presence. Go confidently into that communion of saints surrounding us all, and may they hold you precious until we meet again. Amen.

friend

Amen. Amen. …

go back to religion.

wayne irwin

I’ll let you all unmute yourselves when you want to speak.

friend

Beautiful service. Well done. And hope to see you soon and give you a big hug.

wayne irwin

Yeah, we can all use them.

friend

Yeah. Here’s a virtual one to begin with.

wayne irwin

Thank you.

helen

Wayne, I’m just curious.

wayne irwin

Yes. Who’s speaking?

helen

This is Helen.

wayne irwin

Oh, yes, Helen.

helen

I’ve got this thing on backwards. I’m really a modern Luddite here. I’m just curious, where exactly are you sitting right now?

wayne irwin

Where am I sitting?

helen

Yeah.

wayne irwin

In my office at home.

helen

OK, OK.

wayne irwin

You can see some of my books and some of my stamp collection there behind me.

helen

Yeah, well, the flowers are coming out.

It’s nice to know that the universe, at least, knows what it’s doing, even if some of the people below don’t always know what they’re doing. So we got the full moon, we got the vernal equinox and so it marches on.

wayne irwin

The sun came up this morning.

helen

The sun came up or the earth revolved and so what happened.

wayne irwin

Thank you, Helen.

helen

Oh, thank you, Wayne, for doing this. I’ll say bye for now.

wayne irwin

OK.

helen

Bye bye.

wayne irwin

Bye. Well, I guess it’s just us chickens left, so we can probably pack it in now.

Anyway, I think we’ll close her down now and we’ll talk again. All the best to all of you.

friend

I love you guys.

wayne irwin

All right.

friend

Bye bye.

wayne irwin

Bye.

friend

Bye.

wayne irwin

Bye bye.

friend

Love you.

michael barbaro

I wonder if, in the end, it felt like you had been to a funeral, in the way we have always thought of funerals.

catherine porter

Yeah. I think for me, it did.

doris

Um, well, I thought it would be less of a funeral than going to a funeral home with other people, and I was going to miss that.

catherine porter

Mm-hmm.

doris

But it turned out to be totally different. I was sitting in my solitary silence in the dining room, and as I began to hear the story of Flora’s life from people, rather just sitting back listening to a memorial service that’s formal. This was very moving and touching and it revealed Flora in a way that a normal service would not have done.

catherine porter

Speaking to people afterwards, many told me that this felt deeper and truer and more loving than so many of the funerals that they had been to, and more revealing of Flora. One person talked about how he wished he could do his mother’s funeral again.

friend

Well, it’s interesting. I’m an only son. So when my mom passed, it was like I knew she was going to pass.

catherine porter

And do elements from this, because so much of what we do when someone dies is set out in what we think we need to do and how the elements need to be like this, and it becomes quite wrote.

friend

It was like, OK, did I need all the pomp and circumstance, for lack of a better word, that goes on with the actual service? And when I thought about it a lot last night, I said, Mom would have loved the way that Wayne did Flora’s.

catherine porter

In some ways, a lot of our rituals we’d never question. We just sort of sink into them and they become like old, worn down armchairs. They’re really comfortable, but in some ways, I think the discomfort of the situation and the forcing of coming up with new rituals that are meaningful means that it feels more authentic and more real.

boshana

To my surprise, it was very touching, and I felt this feeling, the unity, it was something which was almost like a magic, like it transported you to a different dimension.

catherine porter

Also, I just think that we’re at this incredible time of mourning as a world. We’re all grieving our lives and grieving the lives that we’ve had before and worried about what’s going to happen in the future, and we’re all sort of stuck in a state of suspension. And some of the grief therapists that I talk to, the counselors, they say when you lose someone you love deeply, you want the world to stop. And the world has stopped. We’re all like in this collective place of reflection.

warren

I certainly know from my work as a minister and a chaplain that often, society gives you the three days to grieve and then move on. But we were challenged to spend a couple of weeks thinking about how best to remember my mom, and I think that was actually a healthy element, too, that we had to pause.

catherine porter

And Flora’s son said that because he couldn’t be busy and running around doing the things he would normally do to distract himself, he’s just been settling in his grief and thinking about his mom in a way that perhaps he would not have been.

warren

But in this situation, that’s been an upside. There has been more time, I think, to remember and to grieve, and not to kind of rush through it because you have all this other stuff to do, because there isn’t. It’s this different kind of situation right now. I want to invite people to see that as an opportunity, an opportunity to grieve. Because I think too often, we just rush through those things because they’re more painful and not that comfortable.

[music]
michael barbaro

I’m curious how Wayne is faring since the funeral. Have you checked in with him?

catherine porter

Yeah, I’ve checked in with him a few times now. I talked to him the day after. That night he watched “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which he said Flora did not love. But he loves it.

michael barbaro

[CHUCKLES]

catherine porter

He’s also just been reading her poetry and going through the books of her writing and delighting in that. In this of suspension, he’s using some of the time to really sink in and reflect and say goodbye.

wayne irwin

I found a book of her poetry. I think I maybe mentioned that the other day. And so I’ve been reading one of them each day, and I read one today. And it’s about the Highlands in Scotland. And so I’d love to read it to you. Can I read it to you?

catherine porter

Oh, I’d love that. Yeah.

wayne irwin

Let me just go and grab the book. I never read them really before. And she just put them in a little book and it was sitting in her desk. Let’s see, here it is. It’s called “The Scottish Highlands.” “High land of wild beauty, a panorama of heeps and hills with knuckles and wrinkles of variegated green, bear stones scratched and scraped, a tartan face of road and fence and winding stream, reaching through dark bouts of spruce and pine into patched arms of bracken and heather, where true-footed sheep and deer dare cling. In wooded places of the glen’s heart, bird and feathered creatures find a refuge near the glistening loft. Up like a liquid silver pool within the palm, where trope can flash and play, while here and there a weary castle still looks down upon a pastoral scene of black and white-faced sheep without shepherd, quiet and content beside a spreading river, where raised the long, hard, shaggy cattle beasts. Color surprises, brighten the grassy bed, with foxglove and buttercup, daisy, dog rose, and iris, a feast for the eyes and the heart, no longer confined, but roaming the wild and free in the highland.” So I thought that’s rich. I love that.

catherine porter

That is beautiful.

[music]
michael barbaro

We’ll be right back. Since the episode aired, Catherine got back on the phone with Wayne to hear how he’s coping without Flora.

catherine porter

How have you been?

wayne irwin

I’ve been fine, I’ve had, I’ve had days where I felt quite sad. I’ve had the odd day where I’ve felt lonely.

I started sort of sorting things out. Like the first thing I did was to rearrange the condo here and to move her — we had a large master bedroom, and she had one end of it for her office. And then I found a box in the storage and I opened it up. And here was all this poetry there from earlier years, going way back to 1960.

catherine porter

Wow!

wayne irwin

And so I got that out, and and I said, we’ve got a treasure here. And because they were so rich, I thought, oh, these need to be shared and. And it was my friend Alan who who essentially called me and said, what would you think about putting the collection together? And I said maybe we could collaborate on that, because I know how to get this published and. And so we we went at it, and we managed to get that book together. And I now have been able to share it and continue to. There’s such a sense of satisfaction in that for me to share this with the people who were her friends and who knew her. I’ve had some wonderful responses from people.

catherine porter

This has been healing for you, I can feel why. Also you feel like you’re sort of you are stitching her legacy and continuing her ministry through the publication of the book. What do you think she would she would make of it?

wayne irwin

She’d be embarrassed.

And I’m saying, it’s OK, dear. This is what you believed, this is what you wanted. And you were not in a position to get it out there, and I am. So here it goes. Because people need to hear this.

But I occasionally tell her, “I still love you, you know.” I used to say that to her. I used to say, “I love you this morning,” “I love you this afternoon,” “I love you this evening.” I used to do that every day. And it was kind of a half joke, because, you know, we’ll see about tomorrow.

[music]
michael barbaro

This episode was produced by Lynsea Garrison and Annie Brown, with help from Luke Vander Ploeg and Sydney Harper. It was edited by Lisa Tobin and engineered by Chris Wood and Marion Lozano. That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

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