When I wrote the Fairlawn books, which are all set in a funeral home, I wish I’d written from a place of greater experience. I had never lost a parent, a spouse, or a child until this week, and now that I’ve buried a close family member, I know I would have written things that simply never occurred to me before.
I experienced some things about funerals, grief, and family this week. For what it’s worth, here are a few of those things.
Bad things about funerals
1. They never come at a convenient time.
2. They are a mixture of the ridiculous and the sublime–i.e., you have to worry about the mundane along with matters of eternal significance
3. They involve tears
4. Emotions are unpredictable and unruly. They crop up when you’d rather they stay hidden, and sometimes they absent themselves when you feel they ought to appear.
5. Funerals involve loss, even if it is temporary.
Good things about funerals
1. Humor is not out of place.
2. Nearly every business and/or school grants time off for funerals.
3. Family gathers together.
4. People bring food you didn’t have to cook.
5. For a Christian, a funeral is more like a graduation from boot camp than a permanent farewell.
6. You hear stories that help you see the departed from other people’s perspective.
7. Not even a high school reunion brings so many people together.
8. There’s no dress code.
9. Black, if you choose to wear it, is slimming.
After my father’s funeral, which filled a small chapel, most of us went back to my mom’s house, which had been kindly invaded by members of Mom’s Sunday school class, each of whom brought a dish of something delicious. Those ladies filled the kitchen with fried chicken, potato salad, sweet potato pie, and gallons of sweet tea (yes, this IS the south), and we all trooped through the makeshift buffet line and filled our paper plates until they sagged.
All afternoon I visited with my dear aunts, cousins, sisters, and friends of the family. I heard stories about my dad I’d never heard before. I met wonderful cousins I’d never met before. We laughed, we cried, we made promises that we wouldn’t wait so long to get together again. And that night when most of the folks had gone home, I told my mom that I’d smiled so much that my jaws hurt. 🙂
Tears of sorrow and joy mingle so easily when you’re with family, the people you love and who love you best.
My favorite story from the day: my sister Dana and I were in a back bedroom fiddling with the computer. We were with her daughters, Brooke and Lacey. I was telling Brooke that the room we were in had been Dana’s, and the one across the hall had been my other sister’s, and the one at the end of the hallway had been mine. “Who had the computer?” Brooke asked. Her eyes got huge when I laughed and said that the computer hadn’t been invented yet.
What did we DO before we had the Internet? Oh, my . . .