As I get older I seem to have more and more opportunities to attend funerals. I never liked funerals; no one LIKES funerals and I avoided them as much as possible, however, I just returned from a funeral for someone that I never knew or even saw. It was for my daughter’s friend’s grandmother. The last time I saw this young lady was only about a month ago as she and my daughter celebrated their sixteenth birthdays at our house with around thirty of their friends. Quite an emotional contrast.
This was my second funeral this month plus a viewing of a young neighbor who died too soon. I do not enjoy the sadness, the grief, the loss, but I have come to understand the role this ritual has in the process of dealing with death of a loved one. I remember when one of my brother’s best friends had died and I though I went to the funeral home I could not bring myself to view his body. I just didn’t want to remember him that way. At least hat’s what I told myself.
Life, however, has a way of bashing you over the head. I can still recall being at work having a normal Monday when one of my co-workers yelled down the hall for me to call home; that something had happened with my Dad. Even writing this now I start to relive the same anxiety, though muted.
It happened quite fast; I called my wife at home…Pap had a heart attack and was being rushed to the hospital. I mumbled something to my boss and rushed out the door grabbing my briefcase. I didn’t get very far on the road before hearing the news that I didn’t have to rush; my Father had died. I stopped home before traveling the hour to be with my Mom, my sisters and brother. My kids were at school and my wife had the unenviable task of telling our children that their Pap had died.
His death was sudden which made it more shocking. We had even spent the previous weekend with him and Bub at their cottage about an hour away. Our weekends were often dominated by ferrying kids to sports events, scouts, and general household chores that working couples need to complete on weekends. Something happened late that week. Games were cancelled and chores got done ahead of time so we got to spend it with my parents. It seemed like any other weekend, hours talking, Pap in his garden (my last photograph was him with my youngest picking squash – it was blurry!), a restful weekend.
When we said our goodbyes I did an unusual thing. I hugged my Dad and told him that I loved him. We weren’t a very demonstrative family, but for some reason I did it that time. Some twelve hours later he was dead. The death of a loved one is quite an whirlwind time. The grief, the planning, the logistics, the grief all while dealing with the grief. This period gave me a new understanding of the process and the healing. Seeing friends, family, and meeting people that knew Pap, but not us. Seeing a family friend who had baptized me, was sick himself, but made an hour-long journey to pay his respects.
I described it as a process and it was. After a while the tears came less frequently, the sadness still there, but shared stories reminded of better times…happier times. Some may call this closure, but that seems to final of a term for me. I didn’t feel closed, but perhaps somewhat healed. Because of my years of avoidance I had missed out on helping others deal with their grief. For that I feel some guilt.
So when my daughter asked if I could take her to this funeral I of course agreed and told her that she was a good friend for wanting to attend. My daughter had never met the grandmother either; she was attending the funeral for her friend.