Monday, 26 January 2009

No Fun In Funeral

All the funerals I have attended have always had a sombre tone, even the one I organised did.

There is not much way round the fact that someone just died, and we are gathered - here today - to recognise that fact.

And in many cases, burn the evidence.

But while solemn, I have not been to many that I would call, sad farewells.

Samantha’s was only the second I had cried at, the first being that for the very tragic death of a friend’s infant son.

It was my sworn intention to give my late wife a poignant send off.

I wanted to set a robust and resilient tone, stylish to the end, sad, but uplifting, and about the tomorrow, as much as today.

Not that I cared one jot how people perceived it, it was more about what I wanted, and what I thought she would have too.

I achieved what I set out to.

I am reliably informed that Sam was dressed in the same outfit she wore for Max’s christening, and that the new Jimmy Choo shoes, she had bought not much previously for my sister’s impending wedding, adorned her beautiful feet.

After my wife was pronounced dead at the hospital, I spent sometime with her there, said my goodbyes, and decided I didn’t want to see her carcass again.

As to me, that is all it had become, however beautiful and splendent, it was just the vehicle that my lady had lived her life in.

And, boy, she had lived it.

I do remember the actually service, the cremation, the wake, the cars in-between, the ride home, the quiet, and the great comfort I got from my boy.

The worst part of it was the waiting, oh, and the second hymn.

Seriously love, The Old Rugged Cross may have worked for your granddad’s, but it made for pretty grim singing at yours.

My overriding feeling of the day was relief, elation that we were through it, and, as planned.

Since that day, I have attended a few funerals, generally for people whose time was due.

What I mean is, they were older, at an age that while still sad, mourners would say “Well at least they had a good innings.”

I don’t know about you, but I always consider a good innings to say ‘not out’ at the end.

If there has been a shim of trepidation on my side about attending such memorials, it has yet to grow to anything close to me even considering non-attendance.

I have even been back to the crematorium where Sammy’s was held, and got through it without much emotional concern.

However, last Friday I attended my late great aunt’s.

She was 91, and died an old maid.

That is not to say she had led an unhappy life, or led a miserable existence. She was a very active lady, whose circumstances, and family values, had often meant she chose to make sacrifices to aid the others around her.

Others now passed.

The last four, nearly, five years, had been a living hell for this woman.

Before then she was very active, independent, and even, still driving.

Sadly, she suffered a massive stroke that effectively turned her into an animated corpse.

Her passing was relief, hopefully to her, but definitely to the rest of us who cared about her.

Which, we all did, even though the closest living relatives remaining were her niece and nephew.

My mom and uncle.

The service was pleasant, bar the vicar saying that she enjoyed going to the tip, which really was not a big part of her life, more evidence that, even in her late eighties, she was very agile.

I actually found it quite difficult to get through, keeping my emotions in check.

Not that you should.

But I would have been weeping for the wrong reasons.

Thing is, when the vicar recites the names of the people related to the deceased and gets to Max, I feel like I am going to explode, and demonstrate irrevocably that the human body is in fact 60% water.

And it can not be because of the relationship lost between these two people, because there was not one to lose.

Samantha was pregnant with Max, when the stroke occurred, and I only took Max to see her when he was little, when there was still hope of an improvement.

There was to be no future.

Max’s great-great auntie was 91, and he only four.

I believe it is more because it serves as a reminder to the huge loss of his mother.

Not getting to know her himself, not having the inevitable tightness, not sharing their beautiful laughter, reining him, and us, in, when we go too far, so, so, many things.

But someone else’s funeral is not the right time to mourn such things.

Any mourning should be limited to the recently departed, surely?

My composure was maintained, although it did take moderate effort.

Which I am not a big fan of.

The service concluded, and my thoughts returned to the intended.

And flipped back, at the appropriate point, until next time. Share/Save/Bookmark


Snickollet said...

I'm sorry your great-aunt's service was so rough for you. If you ask me, it's OK to grieve whatever you need to grieve at a time like that. But I have trouble compartmentalizing ;).

Your service for Sam sounds lovely and so well thought out. I waited nearly six months after John died to do anything, and what I did was have a big BBQ where people created scrapbook pages to give the twins memories of their dad (along with the ones I will do my best to pass on). It was very informal and I think it troubled John's parents, but it felt like the right way to honor John.

His ashes still sit in a brown plastic box on my living-room bookshelf. I should blog about that sometime.

Jeff & Aleigh said...

I have to agree with's ok to grieve and you have to do that whenever you feel the need. I'm sorry your aunt's funeral was hard on you though!

Liz@Violet Posy said...

Grief is a funny thing it hits you when you least expect it.

I found myself crying recently in Waitrose because they had a display of orange gerbrias. One of my friends died 2 years ago and had them in her wedding bouquet and then later when her little boy put them on her coffin.

I was crying not only for her but at the thought of leaving my child. So your reaction is totally normal, especially at a funeral.

Penelope said...

Oh buggar! You made me cry!
I absolutely agree with you about the body just being a vessel and that once the person has gone there is no need to revisit it.
I don't know how you do it, but your attitude is SO good and will only serve to benefit you and Max in future.
*Hugs* always.

T said...

I was once told by a grief counselor that grieving is an ongoing process and its much like a spring. You know how you can stretch out the coils of a spring and some coils are close together and others spread further apart? She said our grieving comes like that... sometimes day after day and sometimes one day and then much time passes before another day triggers that grief again. I agree that you should never be ashamed of when you feel that grief. Feel it full force, become the tears and then you can release it yet again. I think once you let it take you over, then maybe the next time it arises will be after even more time.


And remember that we are always exactly where we're supposed to be.

You're doing great and you're raising one hell of a son with beautiful memories of his mother. You're both lucky to have each other and that ongoing love between you and her memory.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

The oddest things spark grief for someone even so very long gone.

I often wonder at certain points am I grieving for what's in front of me or for someone long gone.

It's no surprise that your mind should wonder.

Nicola said...

What a poignant post. I still have a lump in my throat. You're an amazing dad and I am sure your wife is very proud. It is so sad that you are not sharing Max's life together. My husband and I are separated but there is no one else that I want to share certain milestones or funny tales with - no one else who gets it just as much, loves them just as much. So while we're not a big happy family, I am so grateful that he is still there to share this parenting journey with me. And reading your post has made me all the more grateful. Thank you.

Single Parent Dad said...

Snick - It was only a short part of it, I was just a bit blind-sided.

What you did for John sounds wonderfully different. And I still haven't ruled out putting something together for Sam, which would result in something for Max.

Jeff & Aleigh - Thanks, and I agree, I suppose. I just think that 'it isn't all about me'.

Liz - I know. It can catch you at any time. And it gets no less shocking.

Penelope - My apologies. And thank you for your comment, and I hope it is right.

T - That makes sense. And I never feel ashamed, why should I? Just at that point it was about paying my respects elsewhere. And thanks for your very kind words.

Xbox - Exactly. And I'm still not 100% sure why I got a bit emotional. But it's my best guess.

Nicola - Thank you. And I'm always warmed by creating positivity and positive thoughts. You can comment again!

Zoeyjane said...

But this is exactly the reason I watch sappy movies and Grey's Anatomy. Different circumstances, but still, if I weren't going to get it out then, I likely never would. I don't consider it selfish or dishonouring.

But I kind of enjoy the surprise crying, myself.

Roads said...

Excellent writing, Ian. You know my views on funerals.

There's no good age to die. But 91 is a privilege when others, like your Sam, only see a fraction of those years.

That kind of observation used to make me angry. But now I realise that's how life is.

And death, of course.

Sprits up, and thanks for sharing.

Red Lotus Mama said...

First, I am sorry about your loss. It is never easy to lose a loved one no matter how old they are, how full they lived their life, or how close you were. My condolences.

Second, grief is a strange thing. Even though my spouse did not physically die, my marriage certainly did. I find myself mourning this loss at the strangest and sometimes inappropriate times. My only advice is to go with it. It does not diminish the fact that you are mourning the current situation, but simply that you connect your experience with it. And, in your case I don't think anyone would fault you for it.

Mama Nabi said...

I have not attended many funerals... I've only lost three people for whom I mourned, and attended two of these three funerals. At the last one I attended, I wept for all three of these losses.

I think it's okay. You are mourning the memories created as well as the memories that will only be imagined. That should be allowed at anyone's funeral...

Tawny said...

You grieve when you have to, if that is at another funeral or someones wedding or washing Max's socks. There is no right or wrong way.

Linda said...

Ian, I continue to be so moved and impressed by your blog.Is there any chance we could have a chat at some point in my research for a book I am working on about bereavement?

Single Parent Dad said...

Zoeyjane - Have to say, I do not fear it or dislike it. Reasurring, in a way, that we are able to 'enjoy' life to this extent.

Roads - Thank you. And no worries.

Red Lotus Mama - Thanks for your kind words. And I think connecting with your experience is a wonderful turn of phrase, will be stealing.

Mama Nabi - Thank you.

Tawny - I mourn many things when I am washing those little things!

Linda - Way to butter me up. And of course, it will only cost you a squeeze. Will be in touch.

Jo Beaufoix said...

SPD that was so sad and poignant and beautiful. Sam's service sounds lovely and it's good you got to do it as you planned.

When you lose someone you love it's so hard not to think of others you've loved and lost too. So well done for holding on, but no one would have minded if you'd let go, I'm sure. Hug.

morningaftershow said...

wow, extreme story player. I can't imagine.

Single Parent Dad said...

Jo - Thanks, and I wouldn't have cared if the had. I am accountable to me.

Morningaftershow - Thanks for your comment. Please do hang around.

pamokc said...

This is such a beautiful posting. I have lost many close family members, and every funeral I go to, I mourn for them a little each time. I'm not necessarily crying for the person who has just died, but for all the people in my life that have passed on. Glad I stumbled onto your page today. God bless.

Bee and Rose said...

I do not believe I stumbled across your blog accidentally:) My husband said "there's no 'fun' in funeral" to me this past weekend. Due to a myriad of health complications, my husband has been advised by his doctors to make sure his "plans" were in order. So our weekend was spent planning his funeral. Lovely...

I was deeply moved by your post. I have spent the greater part of the last year wondering how I will feel when he's gone. We are in our early 40's with 2 young children. Reading your blog this morning filled me with such hope...hope that I will find spring again after our dark winter has come. Thank you for sharing your emotions. Your words touched my heart.

With blessings:)

21st Century Mummy said...

That's the second time this week the tears have run down my cheek. What a heartfelt post and thanks for sharing. My husband's grandma died recently at the grand age of 95, and when we made the trip to the funeral, it re-opened the grief for my mother-in-law (her daughter) who we lost to cancer just three years ago. I'm so sorry your great-aunt's funeral was so tough and that your wife died so young. It takes moments like this to help the grieving process along, no matter how hard it feels at the time or indeed how long it's been since the death of your loved one. Keep hugging, keep loving and let those tears flow when needed x

Single Parent Dad said...

Pamokc - Thank you very much. And I think I am discovering the same.

Bee and Rose - That must have been tough. Enjoy the now. Glad you enjoyed reading, please hang around.

21st Century Mummy - Thank you. And I think you are right.

A Modern Mother said...

Big hugs.

nixdminx said...

I agree about the no fun in funerals, and feel a bit weepy reading this post. That said, it's fantastic you can air you feelings on your blog, grief can be such a closed affair. My sister and I attended the funeral of my Mother's best friend just before Christmas and her son spent some time telling us the story of her life. We knew none of it, that she was orphaned at the age of 6, hospitalised with TB for two years and fostered. It was extraordinary. When he went on to mention the great friendship she had with our Mum, the tears came. I was amazed to discover this woman, this fabulous lady who was like an Aunt to us, had lived such a fulfilling life against the odds and was glad that we had come to remember her, and at the same time, our Mother. Thanks for bringing that back to me and sharing your personal experience.

cartside said...

Oh my, your post certainly opened my floodgates in my current very crumbable composure. I've only just come across your blog - thanks for sharing, it can't be easy.

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