Monday, January 27, 2014

Funerals Are Weird

You expect the crying, crying is totally de rigeur. You even expect some laughing - there's a 'celebration of life' element in there, right? Maybe you don't expect the laughing to be occasionally so immoderate, but dammit, he was a funny man. You can see the twinkle, can't you?


Then there's the awkwardness of "oh, it's been so long, it's wonderful to see you - uh, aside from the whole Grandpa-dying thing". Ack, this is worse than trying to put makeup on after a sun-lazy week on a tropical beach and then a low-grooming period of January hibernation. I kept burning myself on the straightening iron. I got mascara in my eyebrow. I fail at being a girl AND proper funeral conversation.

The slide show. Geez, his hair was crazy when he still had it. That man could really wear a hat.

As we were walking down the hill to the funeral home parking lot (me, Matt, his cousin and his brother), my brother-in-law said "Was this supposed to make me feel better? Because I feel worse." Closure is great, but when you didn't see someone every day anyway, the fact that people keep banging on about him being dead does really bring the cold fact home with unpleasant clarity.

We stood tightly packed together, huddling for warmth, in minus thirty degree weather, for the little box of ashes to be put into the little compartment ("bus locker", my husband called it - we are a people who use twisted humour to confront strong emotion). We were surrounded by white, black and gray, and I thought the whole thing had a kind of stark, fitting beauty, but I appeared to be the only one. When we got back in the van, Matt's brother said "Let us pray....for five more goddamned degrees!"

I've only been at Catholic funerals, which are very different from...whatever this was. There was a Reverend Something, but there was a lot of "we don't know exactly what happens when we pass from this earth..." and "Now we only deal with Robert on a spiritual plane", and stuff about how we choose to approach these matters, and a couple of times I felt a bizarre urge to shout "HERESY!", but over all it was quite lovely.

Nana was spectacular. Sixty-seven years they were together - we were talking about having a party for their forty-fifth anniversary "because you never know..." We should have known.

Five children. Ten grandchildren. Nine great grandchildren. It really felt like he was leaving in his wake this big, crazy, mostly-happy family, which is not the worst thing, if you have to die (I'm not a huge fan of the concept, on the whole).

It's all just bewildering. Unknowable. Ordinary. Weird.


11 comments:

Sarah said...

I am sorry. This post is perfect, somehow.

Steph Lovelady said...

I sorry for your loss and for the weirdness but glad you have "a big, crazy, mostly-happy family" to buffer you. Take care, S.

Steph Lovelady said...

I sorry for your loss and for the weirdness but glad you have "a big, crazy, mostly-happy family" to buffer you. Take care, S.

Nicole said...

I really can see the sparkle. xoxo

Hannah said...

I love this, because my family also laughs immoderately at funerals. My Grammie's is this Saturday and we've already *been* laughing because my aunt & uncle are going to sing "Country Road" for some reason, and that will be cheesy & hilarious. Unintentionally. They will be so earnest. I will need to bite my tongue, or else pretend I'm crying.

You're delightful and I'm sending you big hugs.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Funerals are definitely weird. I never know what to do. Especially since I am the world's BIGGEST crier, and most Brits are spectacularly non-demonstrative, which means I'm often sobbing away at the back somewhere while the next-of-kin are holding it all in. (Awkward, much?) The only thing that helps me is to remind myself that it's not for me, it's not for the dead person, it's for whoever-I'm-there-to-support. For just myself, I've never really felt the need... like your brother-in-law says, it just makes me feel the sadness, more acutely. But I like to go, for the people who want to see a big turn out, to know that we're missing them too, and just in case anyone needs a hug. I don't know if it will be different if and when I'm the one doing the organising.

Lynn said...

So sorry to hear the news...hope you and Matt are doing okay. He looks like a real charmer :).

Maggie said...

Sorry about your loss, but I totally agree about funerals. I am an inappropriate laugher and attempt to cover most difficult feelings with humor. Plus I was raised by parents who generally failed to demonstrate the appropriate ways to act during other people's grief. It makes for odd interactions at serious events.

Julie said...

So sorry for your loss. I bet he would have laughed and cracked a few jokes if he were there himself.

*hugs*

clara said...

Ah, Allison. I'm sorry for your loss.

This is touching. That's a weird expression. "Touching." What I mean is, the way you tell it feels funereal, and so I feel like I'm there, at some stranger's funeral, and lives are long and lived well but must end sometime and it's sad.

I've been to a lot of weddings but only one funeral. The way time goes, this balance will be tipping shortly.

Amber Strocel said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

And I agree that funerals are weird. I've been to a couple where I smiled at people, happy to see them, and they frowned back at me. And then I remembered I was supposed to be sad, which I get, and I was, but how do you show that you're happy to see someone, anyway? I guess you're not supposed to be happy to see anyone at a funeral, because it's a funeral.