Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Burying Jonah's Dad...and The Intrusive Lamanite

Last week was a very, very long and stressful week.  I'm glad things have calmed down a bit, although there is still much to do.

Jonah's dad died on Friday, June 21, and Jonah and his sister, who are the "take charge" members of the family, took charge of the funeral proceedings.  And of course, being Jonah's spouse, I took on many responsibilities as well relating to the funeral and burial.

Unlike my mom, who has purchased her burial plot, vault, headstone, and burial rights in advance, Jonah's parents never did.  And unlike my mom and dad, Jonah's parents did not have any money invested.  All we have been able to get for his mom is a $7,000 insurance policy and we're working on getting $4,000 out of his pension (which, unfortunately, is all there is). 

Jonah's parents are deep in debt due to money mismanagement and back taxes.  The funeral and burial cost almost $20,000.  Honestly, I don't know how people can afford to pay for it when a loved one dies.

Jonah's parents lived on their Social Security benefits, but with him having passed, she will get less now.  We're trying to find out what survivor's benefit she will receive, if any (Jonah's dad retired early).

Jonah and I set up at fundraising web page through and managed to raise $1,783.00, but that still isn't enough.  We are worried about whether his mom could lose her home.

Jonah has a lot of siblings, and of course, everyone had an opinion about how the funeral services and burial should go.  It got a little tense at times.  I hope my siblings won't be that way when Mom passes.

Jonah and I took care of getting the programs printed and compiling photos and music for a slide show and for a memorial video.  I wrote the obituary and a reading for the funeral as they were dictated to me.  I helped fill out the information for the death certificate and drew up a pallbearer list and diagram.  I helped fill out and print insurance documents for Jonah's mom.  We collected cards and donations and kept track of anyone who donated time, money, food, flowers, etc. so that we can thank them later.  We helped figure out which out of town relatives would be staying where.  Jonah's sister, Angie and her daughter, stayed with us.

All I had heard about Angie from various family members was that she was overbearing, tactless, and abrasive.  Upon first meeting her, I didn't feel she was that bad, but four days later I could see what everyone was talking about.  Let's just say she has a good heart, but is EXTREMELY high-maintenance, needy, and draining.  I feel like she creates drama and misreads things.  We handled her well, but she was exhausting.

We did a lot of work this past week, made even more difficult by the fact that getting Jonah's family is stay on task is like herding cats.  And we spent lots of time at Jonah's mom's house with his extremely large and extended family.  It was just a very exhausting week and it was especially hard to see my man so stressed by it all.

Jonah's sister took out a $15,000 loan to help cover funeral costs.  It's going to be a tough time financially.

I ended up taking two bereavement days off (and fortunately, the company I work for allows that) for the days of the viewing and the funeral.  Both the viewing and funeral were lovely.  The mortuary had put together a video using the pictures we compiled.  It had a garden theme, as requested (because Jonah's father loved working in the garden), but by coincidence (and again, I don't believe in coincidences), almost all of the flowers in the video were purple, which was Jonah's dad's favorite color.  It really was beautifully done.

Jonah's dad didn't look as much like himself as I would have hoped.  He face was bloated and the makeup was a bit too heavy.  But mostly, his spirit was missing, and that's what made him him.

People deal with grief differently.  Jonah channels his into keeping busy, making sure everyone else is taken care of.  Jonah's sister allowed her emotions to overtake her, sometimes to the point of being irrational.  Jonah's mom didn't want to be alone whereas I do during times of grief.  It's just interesting.

The viewing service was very nice (also quite different from your typical Mormon service).  Jonah's mom wanted the services short and the mood light.  Jonah's brother wanted the services to be a celebration of his father's life, but also centered on the Lord.  Jonah and his sister were careful to involve all the siblings and make sure no one felt left out, but they also made sure that his mom's wishes were the where the buck stopped.

I found it very touching that I was discussed at great length.  One of Jonah's sisters brought me up and said I should be allowed to sit with the family because of my importance in Jonah's life.  Jonah's brother backed her up, and even Jonah's pastor brother, who once told Jonah he was going to hell for being gay, agreed that I was part of the family and should be recognized as such.

I was also included in the obituary as Jonah's spouse (with Jonah's mom's blessing, and she said if anyone had a problem with it, they could talk to her) and had been asked to stand with the siblings and their spouses when the siblings talked about their dad (apparently that had been suggested by Jonah's pastor brother as well).  Neither Jonah nor I could have imagined this a year or two ago.

But the fact is Jonah's dad liked me a lot.  And Jonah's mom likes me a lot.  And I know certain siblings like me a lot and appreciate all I have done for the family.  They've gone out of their way to tell me so.

Apparently, Jonah's dad had a fairly typical Hispanic Pentecostal service.  Lots of gospel music and songs and remarks in Spanish.  Lots of praising of the Lord and remembering what a great man Jonah's dad was. 

I was honored to be asked to be a pallbearer for the funeral.  Jonah didn't want to do it (too overwhelming, he said), so I walked in his stead with his four brothers and several other male family members.  There were actually so many pallbearers that I barely had a grip on the casket at all.

Jonah's nieces and nephews read the obituary as well as as story demonstrating Jonah's dad's philosophy to never turn away anyone in need.  I was also impressed by Jonah's family members' ability to keep it together when they had to, singing songs and speaking and barely breaking.  Jonah sang a rocking gospel song called "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" and brought down the house.


His dad would have been proud.

My only regret is that I didn't know Jonah's dad longer.  He seemed like a great, great man.  Very selfless, charitable, and hard-working.

The slide show is what got me.  They included every picture we submitted (over 160).  It was beautifully done.  It started off with "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe and ended with Mahalia Jackson's "Walk in Jerusalem" and Andrae Crouch's "Soon and Very Soon" and was such a touching tribute to a great man's life.  There was also a video at the end showing Jonah's dad giving his mom a rose and kissing her.  It was so lovely.

Somehow this picture I drew

ended up attaching itself to the pictures we submitted.  This is very strange because Jonah and I checked and double-checked the folder three times to make sure there were no doubles and that we had included photos of everyone.  We never saw this picture in the folder, but somehow it accidentally ended up in the slideshow.

Let me tell you about the photo.  This was a rough draft of a drawing I did for a friend for her Sunday School lesson in April of 2012.  Here's what the final drawing looked like:


The lesson was about the Lamanites and how stiff-necked and hard-hearted they had become.  They had become deaf and blind to the teachings of God.  Anyway, my friend wanted me to draw a fun caricature that displayed deafness (the ear trumpet), blindness (sunglasses and blind stick), stiff-neckedness (neck brace), and hard-heartedness (stone heart).  The drawing that ended up in my father-in-law's slide show was the rough draft version of that drawing. 

Of course, at first I was deeply embarrassed that such a mistake had occurred (and a mistake that was likely my fault).  When I watched the slide show and the drawing came up, I didn't even know what it was at first or what it had to do with my father-in-law.  The more I dwelled on it, the more I realized what it was.  Jonah knew almost immediately that it was my drawing.  He thought it was funny and wanted to tell his family.  I pleaded with him not to as I was embarrassed about it.  Jonah insisted they would find it funny...and he was right.  

Not one family member cared...and everyone laughed about it, even more so because he was a Lamanite (a Mormon belief).  I'm sure it will become a family joke.  We like to think Jonah's dad, who was hard of hearing and couldn't see too well, inserted it as a joke.

When the service was over, family members got one last look at the body.  I chose not to; I just wanted to remember Jonah's dad as he was, not as the vehicle that once held his spirit.

Jonah's aunt did something almost stereotypical.  She wailed and threw herself on the casket and then fell to the ground clutching it.  

It was a hot, hot, hot, hot day at the cemetery.  117 degrees.  Insane.  We wanted the burial service to go quickly to protect the elderly from heat stroke.

Never in any funeral I have attended (most of which have been Mormon services) have I ever actually seen the casket get buried, let alone actually participated in burying the body.  I guess it's common in Hispanic culture to actually physically bury the body, so I was a bit taken aback when the mortuary workers drove the bulldozer up and family members started shoveling dirt on to the casket.

Originally I wasn't going to participate, but Jonah's brother called me over, and I couldn't exactly refuse.  Here I am burying my father-in-law:

I sure was glad the pallbearers were all asked to wear short-sleeved white button-down shirts.  Most funerals I've been to I've dressed in a suit.  It was so hot.  I even wore a sun hat.

It was an honor to know Jonah's dad, who treated me like a son with unconditional love and acceptance.  And it was an honor to help lay him to rest.


LCannon said...

We were all pretty much on the same page when we were at the attorney’s. We weren’t there for the allotted time; other families may make the time longer due to squabbles and opinions. I don’t think we have to worry about the outcome of mom’s funeral (when it does come up)

I am so happy to hear that you have been accepted as a part of the family and the great part that you’ve played and how supportive you’ve been to both of Jonah’s parent. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I am so grateful not to relate to the problems of so many other families. I like coming from a fairytale family which few people will believe really exists.

That is funny about your Lamanite drawing. I didn’t notice it made an appearance. I have just watched the slide show once. It was beautifully done. I’m sorry that I could not be there in person. I’m sorry about the heat.

Duck said...

This was a great post, a beautiful tribute to Jonah's dad. I appreciated the details you included- with aging parents, it is good for me to be informed on how I will need to handle things.

I am glad it was a lovely service and even more glad that you have been and are so accepted into the family, that you are treated with the respect you both want and deserve. Jonah is lucky to have you- you are a stellar man with a heart of gold.

Sending good energy and love your way. Happy night, Duck

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks, LCannon. I'm in agreement with you about pretty much coming from an idyllic family. We really have been blessed not to have too much friction or problems between us.

The slide show was very well done. I really enjoyed it.


Thanks for your thoughts. I'm equally lucky to have Jonah.

BTW, thanks for your catch the other day on "outing" myself. In truth, I've thought about just blogging as myself. I don't know who I'm protecting anymore. Most everyone in my life knows and most in Jonah's seem to to know, too.

I guess I've blogged so long under an assumed name that I'm just used to it now.