Sunday, July 14, 2013
In the last month and a half I have been to four funerals. Two were for people I knew well and two were for people I didn't know at all.
The first funeral was for a man who died at 60 of HIV-related causes. His funeral was kind of light affair, non-denominational. People told funny stories about him. There was no body present. I don't even know whether he was buried or cremated (although I would guess the latter). He was ready to die and I think he found much peace in the end that perhaps he didn't experience much of in life.
The second funeral was for my father-in-law. He was about to turn 76. I don't know if he was ready to go. He had many health problems, but his death was sudden and unexpected. Whether or not he was ready to go, we believe it was his time to go and we trust that he is in a better place.
His funeral was a very large affair with many, many friends and family members in attendance. It was a Pentecostal service. There was lots of noise and gospel music and including the viewing, funeral, and reception, it was a two day affair with much family togetherness many days after. Of course, this was probably the most stressful of the funerals for me.
The third funeral was a woman I did not know at all. She was only 30 and left two young children behind. Her death was sudden and unexpected, an accident, a tragedy. She worked at the same place I work at, but we were not acquainted. I do not even know if our paths ever crossed. Yet her death has affected many of the people I work with and I felt compelled to go.
Her funeral was a very solemn, quiet affair with many of her friends, family, and co-workers still deep in shock and unbelief over what happened. I got the impression she was probably Catholic. As I looked at her body, I was struck by how young she was. Perhaps the most touching and sorrowful moment was when her two children placed roses in her casket.
Another coworker of mine was there and has had a very hard time dealing with it. I think I ended up being at this woman's funeral more for him than for me.
The fourth funeral, which was today, was for the mother of one of Jonah's friends. She was 80 and knew she was going to die. She had prepared well for it. Her service was very sparsely attended. There were maybe 15 people total. This is because most of her friends are deceased and because she had only lived in our city for two years, and most of her living friends are in Connecticut, where she was originally from.
Aside from Jonah, I knew no one at the funeral. Like the first funeral and unlike the second two, there was no body. Her only living son had already had her cremated. The only speakers were a female Episcopalian pastor and Jonah, who also sang perhaps one of the most tender-hearted and beautiful renditions of "Ave Maria" I have ever heard. The pastor did give family and friends the opportunity to share memories or thoughts, but no one did. There was a small reception afterwards.
I shed no tears at the first funeral. I cried at the other three. My tears at the second and third funeral were mostly out of sadness for those left behind, not so much for me (although I, of course, did cry because I was missing my father-in-law). Strangely, the fourth funeral was the one where I probably cried the most.
Looking at the memory DVD the funeral home created, I could not help but think that I will one day face burying my own mother, and that will be hard for many reasons. Part of me will be glad she is released from the challenges that have come with age, but I will miss my mom, and lately she has been so talkative and happy that it almost seems like old times even if her memories are scrambled and short-term.
I was struck, too, by not wanting to deal with the stress that Jonah has experienced burying his own father. I also mourned for Jonah and his mom and family and for the loss that has occurred because of the void left by his dad's passing. And I miss Jonah's dad. When I see the empty chair on the front porch or see his poor dogs who don't know where their master has gone to or when I look at his beautiful garden, empty without him, or when I look at Jonah's mom, I miss my father-in-law.
And then I was crying because I realize that one day, who knows when, one of us, Jonah or I, will have to face burying the other one, and that is a sad thought. I've always thought I would go first, but in this life nothing is certain. The fact is, whoever goes first, it will be a hard, sad road for the other.
Jonah's singing today was so lovely; I was bawling. I'm glad he didn't notice. He's so good at keeping it together, although he admitted he almost lost it himself. I couldn't tell.
In any case, I'm a little "deathed out." Here's hoping I won't have to attend another funeral for a bit.