Yesterday I went to a funeral. It was for a man from my church who suffered from a stroke about three weeks ago while recovering from a long illness. He was a funny old man.
It was the second funeral I have attended since my mother passed away in early December of 2006. The other funeral was for a dear friend who passed away unexpectedly. He was like a grandfather to Chic and Chicklet, especially Chicklet (who we have previous established has special relationships with men). His funeral was in our church. The one yesterday was in a funeral home.
Yesterday’s funeral had a couple of things that I thought were unusual. The first was that there was a social time afterwards in the funeral home (which is what was completely new to me) that had appetizers–potluck style. Chicklet was with me, and the service had already cut severely into her nap time, so I dropped off my dainty tidbits and left. The other thing was that the during the service, the funeral director pulled every card from every floral arrangement and had the greetings read to the entire group sitting there. Although I was not offended by this, I can think of a few reasons why that might not be a good idea. It also took a very long time (cards were being pulled as the reading was happening). We were already well past an hour of actual service, and Chicklet (age 4) was about fed up with quietly sitting still.
But through all of this, I did not mind being at the funeral home…
Funerals are not something I like. OK, who likes them? But I detest funerals. By the time I turned eleven years old, I had been to well over 25 funerals that I could remember. My father’s aunts and uncles were old. My parents helped out old people. We just seemed to be connected to a lot of people that died, and I had my fill of funerals at an early age. Personally, the necessity of funerals had escaped me. I have never thought I needed a funeral for closure. To me they are mostly a time of misery. A few forced laughs to check the flow of tears periodically, but overall not something necessary in my world.
Funerals are, however, necessary for most Americans, so whether you like it or not, when someone dies, there is usually going to be a funeral.
When my mom died the funeral was three days after her death. Due to the circumstances of her death, and knowing what she would have wanted, my father, my brother and I decided to do it quickly and simply with no fanfare. My mother’s family did not appreciate this at all and made the whole thing a big ordeal by their interference. Their wishes were not granted. (This is a completely different story, but they spent a lifetime making my mother’s and father’s lives miserable, so I was pretty firm about not bowing to their desires. It was just their desires, and I knew it was against everything in which my mother believed.) Since that time they have on their own done things to make my mother’s passing more to their liking, but at the time it was not at all to their liking.
I was not with my mother when she died. I knew she was going to die, and I had been there eight days before. Had she lived I would have returned four days later, but I did not live close, and it was not possible for me to be there the entire time. As we were driving back to Missouri after we learned of her passing, we got countless phone calls from my mother’s family, my mother’s caretaker and my father’s family all telling their side of whatever story and why we should do this or this or that, or complaining about some other party that had been calling us. As was often the case before her death (years before), everyone was mad at everyone, and I was supposed to fix it. At this time I probably was the logical person because my father and brother had been in the thick of things until the end, and neither of them had the emotional stamina to deal with selfish people. Because selfish is what they were. The reasons given why we should do this or that was never in consideration of my mother, her husband or her children.
Apparently, these people will never learn that it is unwise to order me around. Making absurd demands of me, especially at a time like this, meant that I would do the exact opposite, if that was possible. The only reason those people got anything the way they wanted was that I was on the road when my dad was at the funeral home, and he caved to one demand–to have a funeral. (I would have had a private graveside service, which is what my mother wanted.)
Funerals are never pleasant events, and they tend to bring out the worst in people. I do not think that was the case with my mother’s funeral because her family always has their worst on display. For some crazy reason my mouth would still drop open at their unbelievable selfish behavior (shouldn’t I have been used to that after 41 years living around them?), but they were no different at the funeral than in daily life.
Since I hated funerals, I was truly dreading this one. I did not want a bunch of people comforting me. The circumstances of my mother’s death (she had a 9-year illness that rendered her unable to take care of herself all those years) meant that I would have to put on the fake smile to many insincere people offering condolences. Maybe some were truly sorry about our loss, but many ditched both of my parents when my mother’s illness began. I have always been honest (brutally honest in the opinion of some), not false. Politeness in this case would call for being deceptive, which I not only dislike, but think is wrong.
The funeral went better than expected. The family room at the funeral home was open to my dad, my brother, my mother’s caretaker, me and my family. The other family was irritated that they were prohibited from being there, but their irritation was more than fine with me. When it was over, I was relieved and just happy to be done with it…
Back to yesterday. As I sat in the funeral home, I was comfortable. It was not anything about it specifically (the sound system was bad, the decor was extremely dated, the service was too long and had odd additions to it), but just being there. I thought about it the whole time I sat there and finally came to the conclusion that it was comfortable because I connected it to my mother. The last time I had been in a funeral home, it was for my mother’s funeral. It was after her life ended, which had not been so wonderful for many years, and she was finally at peace. The last time I saw her face (with WAY too much make-up; she did not wear makeup at all) was in a funeral home. Seeing her lifeless form was not a comforting experience, but the last time I saw her face before that, it was wracked with pain and pleading eyes. She could not talk for several years before her death, but her eyes communicated quite clearly. Near the end her eyes spoke of fear, pain and “PLEASE LET THIS END!” So I guess when I saw her again, she was at least in a restful state. No more pain. No more family garbage. Just rest.
So as I sat there yesterday, I suppose my reflections were what they should have been at my mother’s funeral, had that time not been laced with so much emotion and family political posturing. I had time to process and be comforted. It was nice.
by Louise Cannon