October 25, 2006

Sometimes If You're Lonely
Just Remember She Can See
There Are Holes In The Floor Of Heaven

Having had this whole "death in the family" dealt with four different ways this year, I have come to learn what helps me say my goodbyes and be okay, what certainly does not, and what leaves me just flat weirded out.

There was a viewing for Grandma and a short little speech at a shelter in the cemetery, but I did not see her buried. We were told there could not be a graveside service. I cried over her odd looking body, sharing stories and meeting people that knew her in ways I had never known about. I remember how awful it felt to ride in the limo the next morning as my mom squeezed my hand - all I could think of was how surreal the whole thing was and how proud I was of Leavenworth for the respect they showed our procession. Regular people on the street stopped what they were doing, some cars pulled over, and the Post did a very professional job. But I am still angry that she did not get the funeral a Lt Col's wife deserves.

Aunt J had a memorial I could not attend and a service at the cemetery. I fought tears through the reading and laid flowers on her coffin before they lowered it into the ground. Friends and family gathered at a house and shared stories over a meal more than once. We looked at pictures and books about her life. We celebrated her life and what Aunt J brought into our own.

I couldn't attend anything that was done for Uncle W. I don't know who was there, but I wish I had been one of them. He will forever be gone and there was no goodbye. I will probably always kick myself for not stopping in to see him when I was in town last year ... if I had, I'm sure I would have known he was sick before his time expired. I would have known that "someday" needed to be sooner than I ever made room for it to be.

Aunt F didn't have a service of any kind. No viewing, no memorial, no nothing. No one really even talked about her. The family sat around looking at each other for the weekend. We had sandwiches for most of the weekend as we told stories about our own lives. It was like she just happened to be out of town while we were coming through. She had just poofed away, her clothes packed up, and not a word spoken to cope with it ... like it wasn't an awful thing. It was something weirder than I can even convey.

I've heard relatives say through this that they want what Aunt F had ... nothing. They want to forgo the services and any fuss people would put up for them - 'cremate me and be done with it' is the general attitude. It is making me sick to sit there quietly and listen to it. This past weekend was creepy enough to make my skin crawl at the end of the day.

In my head I have spent the last year screaming. I hate this notion of a 'humble' exit and a lack of 'trouble' or 'attention' brought to the deceased. Funerals aren't for the dead! You have to respect what they wanted but services and burials aren't to make them happy - they are to give people like me a chance to say goodbye in a way that leaves MY heart at ease.

So I've decided a few things about my own exit - I don't want immediate services. I want a reasonable period of time to go by so that my friends as well as my family can be notified and make arrangements to travel if they want to. As awful as people look at their viewing, I want one. I want a memorial service for people to mourn if they need to. I haven't decided how I feel about the burial vs cremation yet ... but I'm leaning toward a burial. When I poof off the planet for whatever reason is mine, I want it to be about the people left behind.

Services, company, food, and stories.
I want an Aunt J goodbye for everyone.

Posted by Princess Cat at October 25, 2006 12:38 PM @ 12:38 PM in Way Down Inside // Permalink | TrackBack

My mom has requested that I get home to see my grandfather who's in rapid decline. And blah blah blah swamped at work I never have time. But I need to find a way. This post reminded me of that.

Posted by: dawn at October 25, 2006 01:52 PM

My condolences.

Posted by: Sgt Hook at October 25, 2006 09:08 PM

I completely agree that funerals, wakes, memorials are for the living. I think that the Irish tradition of a drunken wake is particularly useful for those left behind. Get soused and remember all the good things about the departed. Another thing I think might help the living is spectacle.

When I die, although I know my wife won't do it, I want a Viking funeral. I want to be pushed out to sea in a boat, on a pyre, with the broken shields and swords of my enemies piled at my feet. And then, I want it lit on fire. That's an exit. At the wake, I want the best comedian we can find, to put on a show. And a open bar with Carling Black Label and Maker's Mark Whiskey.

I've been to funerals for people who were very close to me, and despite the solemnity of the ceremonies, none of them captured anything of the life that we were heartbroken was gone. My Grandfather was cantankerous and weird. He wouldn't tell me or my cousins about being a hobo in the depression because he was afraid we'd become hobos. He'd never tolerate anyone speaking ill of anyone in his presence. Even of people like David Duke. But the funeral service didn't reflect any of that, or anything else that made my grandpa so kick ass and wonderful.

Posted by: Buckethead at October 26, 2006 07:45 AM

Some may disagree, but I will say this.

"... like it wasn't an awful thing."

Death isn't always such an awful thing. There are times it is a blessing Sure we will miss them, but we get pieces of people to take with us everyday. And that is a good thing. Death is a little sad for those of us who are left behind. But Cat, I do not THINK death is the end.

I am sorry you have had to go through such a massive amount of loss recently, it seems to happen generational (if we are lucky) I also know you will take this all apart and look at it in the end. It will be ok.

I too think funerals are for the living, a farewell party for someone that might be watching...

I hope you toasted her, even if it was quiet...

Posted by: Armywifetoddlermom at October 26, 2006 04:07 PM

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Posted by: xyzqh at February 24, 2010 07:37 AM