Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Thing About Funerals . . .

When I wrote the Fairlawn books, which are all set in a funeral home, I wish I'd written from a place of greater experience.  I had never lost a parent, a spouse, or a child until this week, and now that I've buried a close family member, I know I would have written things that simply never occurred to me before. 

I experienced some things about funerals, grief, and family this week.  For what it's worth, here are a few of those things. 

Bad things about funeral
1. They never come at a convenient time. 
2. They are a mixture of the ridiculous and the sublime--i.e., you have to worry about the mundane along with matters of eternal significance 
3. They involve tears
4. Emotions are unpredictable and unruly. They crop up when you'd rather they stay hidden, and sometimes they absent themselves when you feel they ought to appear. 
5. Funerals involve loss, even if it is temporary. 

Good things about funerals
1. Humor is not out of place. 
2. Nearly every business and/or school grants time off for funerals. 
3. Family gathers together. 
4. People bring food you didn't have to cook. 
5. For a Christian, a funeral is more like a graduation from boot camp than a permanent farewell. 
6. You hear stories that help you see the departed from other people's perspective. 
7. Not even a high school reunion brings so many people together. 
8. There's no dress code. 
9. Black, if you choose to wear it, is slimming. 

After my father's funeral, which filled a small chapel, most of us went back to my mom's house, which had been kindly invaded by members of Mom's Sunday school class, each of whom brought a dish of something delicious. Those ladies filled the kitchen with fried chicken, potato salad, sweet potato pie, and gallons of sweet tea (yes, this IS the south), and we all trooped through the makeshift buffet line and filled our paper plates until they sagged.  

All afternoon I visited with my dear aunts, cousins, sisters, and friends of the family.  I heard stories about my dad I'd never heard before. I met wonderful cousins I'd never met before. We laughed, we cried, we made promises that we wouldn't wait so long to get together again.  And that night when most of the folks had gone home, I told my mom that I'd smiled so much that my jaws hurt.  :-)   

Tears of sorrow and joy mingle so easily when you're with family, the people you love and who love you best. 

My favorite story from the day:  my sister Dana and I were in a back bedroom fiddling with the computer.  We were with her daughters, Brooke and Lacey.  I was telling Brooke that the room we were in had been Dana's, and the one across the hall had been my other sister's, and the one at the end of the hallway had been mine.  "Who had the computer?" Brooke asked.  Her eyes got huge when I laughed and said that the computer hadn't been invented yet.  

What did we DO before we had the Internet?  Oh, my . . . 



Anonymous said...

It's so true, Angie. One of the best evenings of my life was after my mother's funeral, even after the meal, when I was surrounded by my close friends, my family (including my old aunt) and we raised our glasses and toasted my mother, each saying something they admired about her. Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed but my three college friends, they raised their lighters to me out on the front porch because I had been my mom's caregiver. I'll never forget that moment for as long as I live.

Been praying for you, sis. May you find great joy in the holidays ahead despite the sadness.

love you.

king's kid said...

Having lost both my grandparents, parents and in-laws and now only recently a much loved uncle, I can identify with all your emotions. With my mum we knew she was dying. We had such special times with her before she went to be with dad. My dad was sudden and unexpected which was terrible for us all, but in the long run easier than it had been knowing my mum was dying and watching her fade away. May you find much comfort in all the happy mmemories which will surround you and may the Price of peace himself bring you peace this christmas season.

sara said...

This last week, after almost losing my aunt, she sat in her hospital bed and told me what a blessing it was that she got sick because she had the whole family together. It was just like my godly aunt, when feeling so sick, to see the blessing in it.

what did we do without computers?

Mocha with Linda said...

Well, one thing we didn't do without computers is have the privileg of communicating on a daily basis with sweet friends we'd never met (not to mention our favorite author)!

I almost asked yesterday how the funeral affected you after having written the Fairlawn series. I wondered how having such an intimate process of the preparation would affect you.

All that you said is so true, and I experienced much of that when both of my parents died.

And oh, your #4 about emotions. That will be true for months to come. And you might find that "the big things" like Christmas or other events aren't nearly as difficult as the little things that blindside you. My dad had been gone over 6 months when hurricane season started - he ALWAYS plotted the hurricanes, so when they started promoting the tracking charts that year, that was a tough moment that I hadn't even anticipated. And I figure he talked God into having my mom die the day that Hurricane Ike hit Texas!

Hugs to you.

Kay Day said...

Our family only seems to get together at funerals. Weddings, too, but we have had more funerals. I always enjoy that part of it. Visiting and reminiscing. But so far, I haven't lost a close family member.

I love what Elisabeth Eliot said in her book The Path of Loneliness. Talking about when she buried her second husband and people were empathizing and imagining the pain that she must be going through. But, she said, they never factor in the Grace. May God's grace and comfort carry you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Yes, those emotions. My grief was put on hold for my mom because my dad was so distraught. They'd eloped on his 21st birthday when she was only 16. She died at the youthful age of 62 quite quickly from cancer. I loved her so much. Still miss her.
With Dad it was different. He was 89 and had just suffered a stroke. I could tell he was unhappy, and I wanted him to go home.
But the grief comes quickly at unpredictable times and causes me to pull myself together as I'm driving or having to go into a store. Crazy sometimes.
May you take the time you need to grieve however it is that is necessary for you. It's between you and the Lord how that occurs. God bless you as you "wait" to see your dad again, Angie.

The Book Club Network - TBCN said...

Hey Angie; You are right about your list and I'm glad that you listed the humor. I think the Lord gives us that to help us copy during those time.

On a silly note. I had an author scheduled for book club the 4th week of the month this year. Some of the people in my groups know each other. Two people died the week of book club and several people could not come to book club because they had to go to the furneral (rightly so). But that left a slim group for the author that had traveled on their dime to be at the store. Oh, Man I was thankful we had also booked her for a book signing. Anyway, I told the author (who thought this was funny!). I'm sorry but there were two deaths this week. I had mentioned to everyone that NO ONE is allowed to die on the 4th week of the month when we have book club. But they didn't listen! I'm sorry!! Ok, sick but funny!!

The author understood and of course we sent cards and stuff. But the point there NEVER is a convient time to die. We are all on God's time table. Praise Him!

SmilingSally said...

Count on the younger generation to put us in our place.

perkypaula said...

At my dad's funeral, we (the immediate family) sat in the front row. We had forgotten to bring a framed poem that my dad wrote that was to be read to begin the sevice. The pastor made a comment and then we started to laugh. I have always wondered if those in attendance thought we were nuts to laugh at such a time.

The thing is my dad loved to laugh and I think we honored him in that moment. That was fifteen years ago and is one of my best memories of family.

May you feel God's comfort during this time.

Anonymous said...

At my dad's receiving or viewing, we stood for 3 hours shaking hands with church friends and family. Finally the crowd wound down and my two sisters and I sat together facing the entrance to the room. We could see into the hallway of the funeral home and a lady exited the bathroom and her skirt was totally tucked into her pantyhose exposing her entire backside. The funeral director immediately placed himeself behind her, whispered into her ear and she returned to the restroom. We firmly believe my dad orchestrated that little episode so we'd have a bit of lightheartedness if only for a few moments. That was 17 years ago and I still miss his laughter and the smell of Old Spice when we hugged. He taught me to love the Lord.

Holly said...

Oh, you have been on my mind the past three days, Angie. Praying for you and asking God to be with each of you.

The thing I love the most about you, Angie, is that you are always thinking of writing to share your journey with others. So me, a stranger, can be a recipient of what you have gleaned. Thanks for that.

Praying through the days.

Perhaps the Fairlawn books have just begun...

Terri L. Gillespie said...

Hey Angie, I remember a friend telling me when her dad died that noises came out of her that she'd never made before. She's right, the loss of my daddy brought up emotional responses I'd never had before. But the laughter was sweeter, too. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

My friend,

My best friend died Dec 1...the funeral time was filled with unexpected laughter and much weeping. It is a startling thing to say goodbye to those we love. We are never prepared. And living without them is never easy. But we go on because He asks us to...and because of God's provision we go on with hope.

"For here we have no continuing city but we seek one to come."

Anonymous said...

there has been so much new technology throughout the course of our lives. our kids are amazed at what we lived without!