I think I blogged I had a funeral to go to on Friday, the second in the week. I go to a lot of funerals, probably averaging one a month to every other month. Trust me, I don’t sit down at the obits every morning and say, “Babe! I think I’ll take myself to a funeral this morning!” I don’t LIKE going to them, but I’m in some organizations that have a lot of elderly women in them, women I care about, so when they die or their spouses die, I give my respects. It is the right thing to do.
Now my reactions to these funerals vary. The first few years, I was a mess, turning into a small salty puddle in the church pews. One time I ran out of tissues and I had women passing me a box from the other end. That was lovely. We still joke about that funeral, even though that one hit too close to home and my throat still closes off when I think about it. Now, however, as horrible as it is, I don’t cry anymore… even if I truly cared for the women.
I don’t know when it started, this not crying thing, but I think it may have been last year when I was in hospice holding the hand of a friend of mine who was dying. I cried for her at her bed, as she lay unconscious and unable to speak to me. This vivacious woman who had done so much for me, brought me so much laughter, laying in a bed struggling to die as hospice did their thing and kept her out of pain. I did not cry at her funeral. I was relieved for her.
Or it may have been the funeral I went to a couple years ago… the funeral of a husband. It began with the wife, who I know well, being 15 minutes late to his funeral, el-flake-o that she is, and ended to our great surprise when we realized her husband had been a Narcotics Anonymous member and the funeral turned into an NA meeting. Wow, that’s a blogworthy funeral. I didn’t cry at that one either… perhaps that one started the trend.
So over the years I’ve helped the living grieve, I’ve held their hands, assisted them in standing as they received people and found they no longer had the strength, but had the will. I’ve helped plan the funerals, brought food to the survivors, and pretty much have done what I can to help them through their transition. I’m not an expert on funerals, but trust me, at 39, there’s nobody around who’s got more experience than me… unless of course if they work in the funeral field.
Back to Friday, I knew I had to leave early as it was a half day of school for my boys and the service started at 11:00 and I had to get my boys at 11:50. So I expressed my condolences to the daughters and told them I could not stay for the service, as much as I wanted to, as I’d have to leave early. They said to me, “NO, please stay. Just sit in the back and slip out when you have to.” So that is what I did.
The church was oddly shaped and does not have a large congregation, so it’s only 6 aisles deep, BUT the aisles wrap around in an enormous semi-circle to the pulpit. Very cool. I sat in the 4th aisle, right behind one of my best friends, who happens to be 73 and her neighbor, who is probably around 80. (I state their age to give you an idea that they have also done many funerals.)
The deceased was lying in an open casket in the front of the pulpit. So to look at the preacher meant you had to look over her body. I’ve been to a ceremony similar to this, but I must admit, most I attend are open in a funeral home or closed in the church. Not open in the church. The one I did attend that was open in the church, we all shuffled past him at the end of the service, then after we were all gone, they closed the casket, loaded it up and we went to the burial.
Not this time. We’re sitting there, the organist stops, the funeral home folks walk up, they fold in that liner thing around her body (probably a 4 inch overlap onto her body) making sure it doesn’t touch her face… then… THEY CLOSE THE LID! WITH US WATCHING! I sat there for a minute as I watched the lid close down upon this woman’s body… then I quietly leaned forward and said in hushed whisper to the ladies in front of me (who I have now noticed each have an eyebrow raised), “Is it just me, or is that not a common thing? I do believe I have never been to a funeral where they closed up the body in front of everyone.” They both said, “We have never seen this done before.” Then I said, one last comment, “I’m sorry, but that was creepy” and I leaned back in my seat.
It was very creepy. I don’t know why. It is psychological for sure, but just seeing her body closed up… Blech.
That creeped out feeling wore off though because soon we were singing all my favorite hymns. I do not dance, but I love to sing in church… and I love to sing at funerals even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I find it soothing to the soul.