Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

I'm back home from my trip

I drove back from Danville today.  It's been raining for two days; it seems to always rain for funerals, although of course they happen on sunny days, too, but it still seems to, at least in our family.  I did alright on the trip down until I reached the Danville city limits, and everything suddenly seemed very real.  I met my aunts and uncles at the funeral home at 9 am (the family usually arrives an hour before visitation for a private visitation).  My step-father came up.  I must say, the staff of the funeral home (Preston-Pruitt-Spurlin) were very attentive and good at striking that difficult balance of being available when needed and generally in the background so the focus is on celebrating the deceased life. I would highly recommend them.

I have trouble with visitations usually, and in my own funeral plans, there isn't one.  There seems to be something a little strange about chatting around a dead body, at least as far as I am concerned. However, I realise it often helps some with the grieving process.  But at the very first visitation I attended, my great-grandfather's corpse looked very life-like, and my great-grandmother, who had Alzheimer's, stood up from her wheelchair and begged him to wake up.  It made a lasting impression.

They did a good job with Momma, but in the end, the body is still just a shell, and it wasn't really my mother there in the casket.  Still, it was hard seeing her there.  There were quite a few people who came by, about half her family and about half people John knew.  My workplace sent a giant peace-lily for the funeral, and the flowers were in various shades of pink and red, which went well with the lighting and Momma's pure white casket.

The intention had been to have photos on a loop on a screen during the visitation, but they could only do that using  a CD rather than the jump drive they were on.  Still, people connected and shared memories.

The service went well.  I'm not Christian, but my mother was a member, like her parents before her, of Gethsemane Baptist Church, and the pastor there did the service, which did involve preaching and payer, but at least he had met my mom and talked with her more than once.  When my great-grandmother, the one with Alzheimer's, died, the preacher had apparently not seen her, as he declared her to have been infirm in body but sharp in mind, which was complete lie.

John requested two songs to be played, 'In the Garden' and 'Amazing Grace', the latter on the bagpipes. That brought some tears to my eyes when it played.  I remember my mom being so upset at my grandfather's funeral that they played the song on some sort of recorded bell, rather than on the pipes, when my grandfather had wanted it in full Scottish fashion. That was another funeral home, of course. My mom was a stickler for details in funerals.  At my grandmother's my mom was annoyed that the casket had pink carnations on it instead of pink roses, my grandmother's choice.  So I'm glad hers went well.  Instead of flowers on the casket, John had brought in a quilt she had loved and they laid that on it, and the colours worked well with the flowers that people sent.

After the service, we drove as part of the funeral cortege a few blocks to the cemetery.  I've never actually driven in one, before.  The Danville police escorted us and did an excellent job.  At the cemetery entrance, one blocked the oncoming lane and stood at attention.  It was very respectful and I appreciated it.

After the graveside service, we went back and got the flowers, and then met up at Cheddar's to eat and visit.  I went back to the hotel my family was staying at and changed clothes and got out of the pantyhose (which I had found at Meijer's actually, along with some underwear.)  We went and visited with my cousin Buddy for awhile and then ate dinner at Cracker Barrel, and I had a good meal despite the fact that I don't eat meat, except for fish.  It's a little bit of a challenge with 'country-style' cooking, but I had lemon pepper rainbow trout with a baked sweet potato, fried apples, and macaroni and cheese.  Buddy picked up the entire tab; my aunt and uncle had picked up lunch for John and me, and then I stayed in their hotel room on a pull-out sofa bed, so my trip there cost nothing but the gas, for which I was very grateful.  I am so glad my family was there for so many reasons; they were a great comfort.

I'm doing pretty well emotionally.  I've never been particularly demonstrative upon the death of a loved one; it usually comes in short bouts of emotion for a few days, and I've been very fortunate in that my relatives' deaths have not be untimely, for the most part.  Momma had been in pain for some time, a constant string of bouncing back between hospital, nursing home, and home, and apparently the last few days were nearly unbearable.

I must give a special thanks to John, her husband, who saw her through all that and helped her bear it all.

So while there is an empty place in my life where my mother had been, I can't say I am sad to the point of devastation at her death.  It was time.  It was kinder to let her go.  None of us wanted to see her continue to suffer, although it was hard to let go.  I think I came to terms with it before my step-father did; he saw her every day.  I saw her every few weeks and could see just how quickly the toll her illness was having on her.  My mom was only 69.  She looked much older, and had wasted away to almost nothing.  It's sad to see her go; I will miss her, of course, but I am glad her suffering is at an end.  I keep feeling like I should be grieving more demonstrably; this was my mother, after all, and we were very close once upon a time.  But I guess grief comes in many forms.  I keep finding myself thinking of talking to her or showing her something, and it's like I suddenly remember she isn't there, and that's when I'm sad.

I'm writing this on the laptop while lying in bed, which isn't the best, of course. I think it's time to close. I think I'll take one more day off (I have three days of bereavement leave) alone to sort out my emotions. Yesterday and today were about family and friends. Tomorrow I want to take some time to myself and, as they say, decompress. Good night.

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