Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Lovely Day for a Funeral

I have written previously about my friend Val, the bingo queen.  In April 2010 my post stated that her mother, suffering from cancer, "could go any day."   Well, she fought that cancer tooth and nail for 8 more months, until she finally passed away last week at the age of 61.  I never met her, but from what I heard she had a will of steel, and was as stubborn as the day is long.  Just like Val; no surprise there.

Today we attended the memorial service.  It was one of the few sunny days Toronto has seen this winter.  Sunlight filled the cemetery's visitor's centre with a reassuring glow.  The building was modern and spacious, with off-white walls and pale, natural finishes: wood, blond stones, lush ferns in large ceramic pots.

So many people showed up that extra chairs were added, but in the end some folks had to stand at the back.  It was good to see so much support for the family.  As we filed into the room, I saw that everyone was slowly moving past a receiving line: all the principal mourners lined up by their seats at the front.  Just as we entered, a middle-aged man in a black suit greeted us casually.  We introduced ourselves but he did not identify himself.  I was pretty sure he was a family member of some description.

Up at the front I met Val's sister and her husband, and her younger brother.  I wondered where her dad was.  That is, until we had already been seated for a while, watching the rest of the crowd file in, and I saw that man in the black suit move to his rightful place at the end of the receiving line, next to his son.  He was the only one to whom I had no chance to say "I'm sorry for your loss."

Judging from what Val had said of him while her mother's illness was ongoing, I wasn't surprised, only saddened.  Her dad was having a tough time dealing with the loss of his wife from the time it was clear that she wouldn't survive.  Apparently he refused to talk to her about her impending death.  He didn't want to be in that receiving line.  He didn't cry during the service, only sat in stony silence.  It was a shame to see him locked up like that.  I guess his grief is too large to admit.  He's got a long, hard road ahead.

The service was truly beautiful.  The MC, a United Church minister, a woman, said all the right things. Bereaved family members (and one friend), including Val, delivered sincere and heart-breaking eulogies bravely, fighting tears.  There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

I can't imagine saying a final goodbye to my mother, or to Ken.  But chances are, it'll happen.  I hope I can be as courageous as the people I saw today, speaking their hearts with conviction.


Lulú said...

I am extremely close with my family, and I cannot imagine what it will be like when I lose one of them. I admire those that can keep it together in times of grief.

No matter how well they seem to be taking it, you know they have to be hurting inside. May God comfort your friend and her family during this difficult time.

G said...

I never had a chance to say goodbye to my dad when he passed away in 2004....but both the day of the wake, of the funeral and even when we buried his ashes, it was a gorgeously sunny day (especially in November when we buried his ashes).

Sparkling Red said...

Lulu: Thanks for your prayers. My friend is a pillar of strength most of the time. I have never seen her so distraught as she was today. I'm just glad that she's breaking down now, rather than packing all those feelings inside where they would eat away at her.

G: I have been to two interments. One was on a freezing, grey, muddy, late November day, and it was horribly depressing. The other was on a sunny spring day. I was closer to the person who died in the spring, but that funeral was much easier to bear because of the warmth and sun.

Jameil said...

It's probably all too real for him and surreal at the same time right now. The thought of losing loved ones is a terrible one.

Hevenly said...

Sorry to hear about this. Your poor friend !

Lynn said...

People seem to deal with grief in different ways. The funeral service sounded lovely and you got to be there to support your friend.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your friends loss. I am like you, i cant imagine having to say goodbye to mom and dad...but thats life....i would like to think the sun spot was the loved one looking is a tough thing cause it has it highs and lows...zman sends

DarcsFalcon said...

I'm so sorry for your friend and the loss of her mother. Her whole family will be in my prayers.

Grief is never easy, not even when you're "expecting" it, as in the case of terminally ill patients. Please give her my condolences.

Jenski said...

I hope your friend and her family are working through their grief. When a friend's dad passed away suddenly, it was requested that people wear bright colors (yellow preferably) to the wedding. Her Dad would have wanted a cheerful day, so it had to be.