The morning of the funeral I woke up and began to lament. Consumed a small breakfast and showered. Dressed and put on makeup and nylons, both of which I despise. No pockets and forgot to bring my small black bag but Betty let me borrow her purse. Went to Dad’s home. The funeral was scheduled for the afternoon. The mortician instructed us to arrive a half an hour before the visitation.
How do you bury the most significant person in your life? My mom taught me so much – how to walk, talk, read & write, ride a bike, the basics of everything. She shaped who I am today. It would probably be worse to inter a child or spouse. I don’t have either so burying my mother is the most tragic experience of my life.
The only other time that I felt this degree of sorrow was the death of Mom’s father. He was of part-Dakota heritage and we were close. I was in middle school and had spent at least one weekend per month with him since I was small. He taught me how to ride a horse, make proper knots, and use horse sense because I was profoundly naive. Grandpa took me to see family who lived on the reservation. He had been talking about death a lot during the year before he died. I didn’t want to see his body at the visitation; I didn’t want him to be dead. He spoke with horses and took his bow & arrow with him to the great hunting grounds. I still miss him.
Drained. Funerals are for the living but it doesn’t bring closure to the process. Mom’s body will slowly rot in a sealed tomb. Perhaps archeologists will dig it up in a thousand years and make wild assumptions about her life and death. Funerals only mark the disposal of the DNA. Her funeral was more than three days after her death to allow for relatives to travel in from out of the area. I just wanted the ceremony to be over, like watching my mom struggle to breathe for five torturous hours. She did not go peacefully into the night.
Dad was so anxious that we went an hour early. We followed the hearse as it traveled to the small church on the hill. Cried as they unloaded the casket, white with roses. Mom had picked it out several years ago. Tears washed away all traces of makeup before the mourners arrived. My blood pressure began to drop so I ventured into the kitchen for a glass of water. Nicked a brownie to increase my blood sugar since we didn’t bring in lunch before the service.
About 130 people attended on a cool autumn afternoon. I haven’t lived in the area for several decades so I recognized only about a quarter of the people. Nice to see cousins though the circumstances were sad. Betty’s son gave me a wonderful hug; he’s a sweetheart with a gruff exterior. A college friend of Sister #2 attended. He spent a lot of time with our family while in college because his family lived too far away to visit. We lost touch several years ago but Mom called him her adopted son. I managed to locate his place of employment and send him a message a couple days before the funeral. #2 even told me “thanks.”
The ceremony only took a half an hour but seemed much longer. I wept at the end of the line, furthest from the casket. Dad was closest to the coffin, with us in birth order. It was nice that statements from a niece and nephew who could not attend were read. #2 wrote a touching eulogy, which was read by the minister. I would have submitted my poem, if I had been notified. The hyper conservative preacher focused on conversion to Christianity. He kept stating that Jesus was the only way to Heaven. Not just once but three times during the service. He never spoke of how involved my mother was at church. All I wanted to do was punch him for his impudence. Mom was a Christian but accepted that I wasn’t. My soul is my business.
Folding chairs had been brought in to supplement the 100 chairs in the sanctuary. The chairs spilled into the atrium and balcony. The service was filmed to send to absent relatives. Deeply touched that six of my closest friends traveled from the Twin Cities. They all knew my Mom because she and Dad would occasionally visit. I would always host a potluck when they were visiting because they wanted to know my friends. Mom said that she didn’t worry about me because I had “such good friends.” That is because she taught me how to choose wonderful people as friends.
Stumbled out to cars to travel to the cemetery. Internment was on the windswept prairie. Mom wanted to be placed near her father and brother. A brief graveside prayer and I broke down while clutching my friends. I didn’t care who heard me wail. I could barely stand so they physically supported me. The wind blew coldly as they held onto me and cradled my head. I choked out a thank you; it was difficult to speak. Probably 20 people came to the internment. I don’t really know because I was awash in grief.
Returned to the church for dessert. Mom loved to bake so we thought it would be most appropriate. Most people had already eaten and departed because we were gone for about 45 minutes. Oddly, I felt relieved. The worst day of my pitiful life was over. Perhaps my relief was due to endless tears and exhaustion. The lead weight felt lifted. I sat with my friends after saying hello to a few relatives. I didn’t bother introducing my friends to anyone.
Friends are my Family!
Copyright © 2013 by Ima B. Musing; All rights reserved