A Funeral

When I left for my mission, I was convinced at least one my father’s parents would die before I returned. I have a few journal entries where I discuss how sad I would be, that I should write them more and how grateful I was for them. They both were there when I got home, both were at my wedding. My grandfather died in 2004. My grandmother is still alive and in decent health.

My mothers parents always seemed much younger than my fathers. The Cartys have looked pretty much the same since I have know them while I remember the Merediths with naturally dark hair and wrinkle free faces. Sadly, both of them are now dead. My grandfather died of cancer in 2010. My grandmothers funeral was this past weekend.

When my grandfather died, he had been ill for quite a while and there was a sense of relief along with a feeling of grief. His funeral was difficult as he was a difficult man to understand. Contrast that to the funeral this weekend where the atmosphere was almost joyful. My grandmother had deteriorated very rapidly. She suffered from dementia and many physical ailments but her passing was quiet, quick and merciful. I cant quite put my finger on why this funeral seemed so less sorrowful than that of my grandfather. To be clear, it wasn’t that people were happy my grandmother was dead. There were plenty of tears and heavy hearts. There was just more laughter, more happiness in the company of family and friends. People did not appear heavy with grief. I don’t mean this as an accusation. More an observation.

The first funeral I remember in detail was for my great uncle. It was 1987 and I had just turned 17. The death was unexpected, at least for me. He was young enough, just in his 60’s and I remember being quite shocked to hear of his passing. My family went to the funeral and i vividly remember my heavy heart and tears. We had not been particularly close but I always liked and admired him. I could not understand the extent of my sadness, though it passed soon after the funeral was over.

I realize how fortunate I had been to not have experienced the death of someone closer to me.  Some of my friends had lost parents or siblings. A few had lost close friends. I had only had this one death and I was near 20.

Of course the older I have become, the less fortunate I have been. I have still experienced much less death than some I know, but I have had my fair share. I have come to recognize that what I grieve for is usually lost possibility. I grieve for myself and what I will miss out on, the experiences I will not have.

When I was attending the University of Utah, a close friend of mine was murdered. It was a random act of violence committed by someone looking for money.  The unexpected and violent nature of her death affected me a great deal. I couldn’t sleep and found myself  obsessing about her-What had she experienced and did she know what was about to happen? It was hard to comprehend how any of this could have happened. I would imagine her sitting in her room, studying for the test she had the next day, then hearing the commotion out in the other room (It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that the 911 tapes were released and I heard her final words).  I  made myself sick with fear and anger. I fully expected to suffer the same fate and would be up nights, scared at ever sound. It was months before I felt safe again; years before I stopped missing her.

When someone we care for dies, grief can be overwhelming. We spend nearly every waking moment thinking of the person, remembering stories or events. Often it is just an image of the person that remains constant in our minds. Hearts feel almost too heavy and it is easy to wonder how we will ever get through it.

Then somehow we begin to think on them a little less. Soon days go by without a thought of them, then weeks-months-maybe a year.  Recovery is forgetting. Forgetting is relief.

Somehow after enough time passes, the thoughts bring less pain. Though sometimes, when memories sneak up on me, catch me unprepared, I feel guilty. In order to live my life, to move on, I have had to forget them, think of them less, which sometimes feels like a betrayal.

Well this has been a bit of a ramble, but conversations about death often are.

Perspective.

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About fenster

There are some who call me, Tim?

5 responses to “A Funeral”

  1. natalie lyman says :

    I can relate to this post , unfortunatly. Last year, we lost both of my inlaws in a 13 week period. It was hard at first, but at the same time, I was comforted knowing that they were together. Death is always a tender time, to reflect on your own life and the life of those you have loved that have passed.

  2. JR says :

    I recall watching a newsy show (20/20 or 60 Minutes) that covered people with perfect memory. Initially I thought how cool this would be, to have a perfect memory of every moment in your life. Then they asked one woman about her mother, and the woman started crying. Her mother had died many years before, but this woman still had a perfect memory of every feeling. Every ounce of sorrow that she felt at the time of her mother’s death was immediately recalled. At that point I became thankful for my lack of perfect memory. Not only does is lessen the recollection of the painful times we’ve had, but I think it also makes us forget the pains of failure or embarrassment. I believe this keeps me trying new things, or different variations of the same thing, in order to overcome road blocks in life.

    Anyway, I could ramble on about this topic, because I think about it often, but suffice it to say that I am grateful for that occasional sound (usually a song), smell, or some other trigger that flashes me back to a specific moment in time, warts and all. I am also grateful that I am able to forget some things.

    • fenster020 says :

      In order to move on, I have to forget…then when I remember, I feel like I let that memory down in trying to forget it. What a strange thing. Maybe I am just insane.

  3. Andrea P. says :

    My first brush with death was my own in 1977. I was diagnosised with ALL (Leukimia). The second was when I was 13 yrs old, it was my older cousin. The next ones was my mom’s best friend. Then great aunts and uncles. Cousin who died with AML. The worst one was my Uncle on my mother’s side in 1995. I took this one hard. Then my paternal grandfather in 1998. Another hard one was my 1st cousins little girl. She was only 8 months old. Seeing this little tiny pink casket was the worst. And then another uncle on my mother’s side in 2004. In 2005 my husbands grandma died. She was a great woman. In 2007 my husband’s sister. The worst was my maternal grandmother in 2009. She was like my second mom. I spent a lot of time with her and I miss her sooo much. Then my maternal grandfather died 2010. He just could live without my grandmother. In 2011 my paternal grandmother. No, more grandparents on earth. They are in heaven waiting for the rest of us to come and finish the links in our family chain.

  4. Sheila M. Carty says :

    A beautiful piece of writing, Ryan. I feel the reason for the difference in atmospheres is because we were happy to see my mom go, she had suffered so much both in mind and body for so long. With my dad it was different. I don’t think any of us were ready to see him go and especially not me. Yes, he was a difficult man to understand and it was never easy for he and I to talk, me being a highly sensitive individual and him not having an understanding of that, but when I was in my 40s I decided I wanted to have a relationship with him, he was my dad and I loved him, so I made the effort, and what I found was a man who was sensitive as I never thought he was, and who had never gotten over his grief over the death of his little girl, and because of that developed almost a paranoia, never wanting anything like that to happen to the rest of us kids. When we were finally able to talk and he told me his story, and I was able to understand with the perspective of years, I realized he was a man who had a harsh upbringing, from parents who also had a harsh upbringing, who hid his real feelings behind gruffness and fear, but a man of total integrity who truly loved us all, and enjoyed a much altered relationship with him for the rest of his days. I love him and totally respect him and know I will see him again. P.S. I hope I broke the mold in regards to harsh behavior and lack of communicating love to my own children. You are an awesome son and I love you very much!

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