I awoke this morning with one thought on my mind: Funeral.
I'm no stranger to funerals and/or ceremonies of remembrance. The first funeral I remember was when my grandfather died. He was 97. He was old, old, old. He lived in a nursing home. He hung himself from the clothes bar in his closet with the terry tie from his bathrobe. I found him. I was about, mmm, seven or eight I think. I can't remember. But I remember the funeral was open casket and I wore a denim blue shirt with white eyelet trim. I remember him looking peaceful. And I remember that his glasses should have been cleaned. There were fingerprints on them.
In college, my other grandpa died. He was terribly ill and what I learned is that death holds a finality that one doesn't feel until they are in it. And that's how his death was. I suddenly understood the permanence. Still, I recall him saying he was ready to go, and that it was okay. His admission somehow made it easier to handle.
In my young adulthood, my grandma died. I had two little kids at the time, and we began talking about the circle of life. She had cancer that ravaged her body and left her weak, exhausted and only a shell of the woman that I remembered from my youth. She died in hospice care with my mother at her side as her spiritual guide.
In the last several years, we've been funeral free. We have several elders in the family. My dad is 91 now. MOTH's grandma just hit 100 in May. MOTH has another grandma that is frail, frail with osteoporosis . . . but is about as old as my dad.
So, when I woke this morning thinking funeral, it was a thought I couldn't shake. I'm not sure what part -- which aspect -- of THIS funeral was hardest to swallow. The suddeness. For sure. The age. For sure. The story surrounding the death and the day of death. Absolutely. The idea that the wife is a girlfriend. Absolutely. The surviving young teenage son. Yes, sir.
Sort of in a daze, I navigated my morning. I dressed in black and attended the service with a dozen other women, friends of the new-widow. Gasp. What a word. The service was a Catholic mass. There is comfort in repetition. The eulogy was beautiful. There were two. They were both beautiful. I loved the stories and the highlights and highpoints. There were few dry eyes in a nearly full church. Near the end of the service, the "thing" hit me. It was this: I was sitting in a pew full of people all similar age. We're all between, say, 35 and 55. That's pretty frickin' close in the span of a lifetime. We all have kids. We all have houses. And cars. And mortgages. And activities. And day to day things that swallow large gulps of time. And a death like this . . . sudden, unexpected, out of the blue -- and to a young man, could happen to any of us. Any one of us could be the next survivor. In that moment, my whole world kind of did a somersault. The next survivor. Just think about that. Say that out loud a time or two. Horrifying thought, isn't it.
There isn't a way to attend a funeral without coming home to your beliefs. For me, that's the one and only way to get through loss and grief . . . to come home to the house of belief, faith and the One that has built you. Do I believe in Heaven? Yes. For sure. And yes, I think he's in a better place. But believing in Heaven and being in a better place doesn't make joyful noise on weekends and it doesn't fill the emptiness in a king sized bed. And therein, lies the hardest part for me. The hardest part and the thing that brings tears to my eyes is hearing MY friend say, "I don't know how to be a single mom" or "Night is the hardest part . . . it's so quiet. I want eveyone to stay." Just imagining the "things" around that will be constant reminders of his gone-ness make elephant tears well up in my eyes. Golf clubs. Socks. After shave. Deodorant. Men's underwear. His reading light.
So my prayers today . . . my prayers this week . . . my prayers, very likely, for many, many days to come will be for those departed AND those survivors. After all, surviving is no easy feat, is it?