Just when I thought that a) things couldn’t possibly feel sadder and b) I was over it and quite cavalier about my mother’s death, I had to c) sit through her funeral. It is really embarrassing to admit exactly how overcome with emotion I was. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t really all that embarrassing at the time, probably because I was so overcome with THOSE OTHER emotions.
I guess funeral talk isn’t exactly happy blog fodder, but it is just about the only thing in my brain, and its either write this stuff down or go back to making lists of ‘long e’ spelling words for Monday…
THE BIG DAY
First of all, my darling daughter Sprite and her husband drove into town on Wednesday night. Thursday we piled them and 13 year-old Squirt into the car and headed up the coast. We met big brother Jolt for lunch, and then Squirt moved into his car and we all drove to Los Angeles. We got there in pretty good time, checked into the hotel, had an early “dinner” and headed across town to the church where the funeral was to be held. We got there about 6:20 for the 7:00 service. The hearse was there, and a couple of stragglers. After getting inside, chatting a bit and wondering why my dad wasn’t there yet, I called him. Well, he was stranded at home, waiting for my brother to come home, change and drive him to the church, but it was really close to show time at this point! I said I’ll come get you! Just as I said that, I saw my brother standing there, saying he had locked his keys in his car while setting up for the reception. I grabbed him and drove him home and waited while he changed. Then we headed back to the church. Late for the 7pm service naturally…but we all figured that they would wait for the immediate family to show up, and of course we were right.
Well, we were to start with a brief rosary…just 2 decades. That’s basically two groups of an Our Father, 10 Hail Mary’s, and a Glory be. HOWEVER, the priest somehow took that to mean two MYSTERIES. Two COMPLETE MYSTERY groups. That meant 10 groups of an Our Father, 10 Hail Mary’s, a Glory Be plus Fatima prayer, and a Hail Holy Queen thrown in after each Mystery was complete. If I counted right, that was 262 prayers recited aloud. Somewhere during that chanting of prayer, my mind started to wander from the prayers to my mother. And I started to get a bit choked up and a little teary.
BUT then, they opened the casket for the viewing. I hated that. I hated seeing her there. And as her friends filed by one-by-one to pay their respects, I got more and more choked up. To the point that I was choking back deep sobs, and I couldn’t open my eyes or anything. It was horrible. Horrible. I hated feeling that empty. That wracked. That completely overcome. Then the family was supposed to get up and pay respects, but I couldn’t move. I was a 5 year-old rocking in the corner, unable to respond. They were asking me to get up but I couldn’t. Then my husband offered to help me and I got up. And then just crumpled into my father’s arms and stood there at the front of the church for what seemed like forever, but I didn’t want to leave once I got there. I felt like a small child again, in a weird way. I touched her hand, and it wasn’t just still. Or stiff. Or cold. It was cold, stiff, still, hard and really just a lump of flesh-colored stone. Cold hard stone. Not my mother at all. Had it been a marble carving of my mother it couldn’t have been less my mother. I remember telling my dad that it didn’t feel like her…
It got better after that. I composed myself somewhat. My kids did readings and made me proud and smiley, but when it was my daughter’s turn, after her lovely job at the podium, she stepped backwards too far and fell off a badly-placed step and her high heels went clattering and her arms were flailing, and was all laughing at herself embarrassed, and it was a moment of levity that my mother PROBABLY CAUSED from afar just to lighten the mood and get us happier.
Not 100%, but I haven’t sunk back down as low as I was at the casket during the viewing.
We had a nice reception afterwards. I saw a lot of people who are peers of my parents, who were parents of kids I knew in grade school…folks my parents’ age who haven’t died yet. Some of my brother’s friends were there, and a few family friends, and my contingent of kids. I met people, put faces to names I knew, saw faces I hadn’t seen in a long time, and was consoled and lifted up over and over. It was nice.
THE NEXT DAY
The next day we went to the cemetery. Mom went into a crypt, and not the ground. That ceremony was shorter and, as I was determined not to sob uncontrollably, less dramatic. Phew. It was still touching and painful and teary and sad. But less so than the night before.
I think that is all I can bear for now.
Oh, but one more thing.
I started this out intending to express thanks. Thanks to those who read here and said sweet and comforting things. It is amazingly helpful. And a vague thank you to those in real life who have been amazingly kind and supportive. And for the people at the funeral who were the likewise strong and sensitive. Even my students who have made me cards and prayed for me. Thanks to all…I feel guilty accepting so much love and prayer and good wishes. But I must confess that everysingle kind word means a lot and helps immensely.