The Thing About Funerals


I went to a funeral on Saturday. New Year's Eve. 

The reason we were gathered there--the death of my grandmother--was not in itself completely unexpected. She was 88, and we had all seen her grow thinner over the past year. Ever since the cancer diagnosis last November, the reality had been moving ever closer. Still, when it was finally happening, it didn't feel like I was actually sitting there on an unfamiliar church pew between my cousin Jake and my sister, Sarah, listening to them speak about my grandmother in the past tense. She was. She would have. 

But wait, I wanted to say. I just saw her last week. Why are you using those words? She is. 
But she's not. 

That's the truth that kept smacking me in the face all weekend.
And, truth be told, I wasn't even that sad about her. 

She lived a good life.

My grandpa ended a family prayer with this line: "Thank you for preserving her sound mind to the end."
What a blessing. 

There were no long hospital stays. There was no memory loss. There wasn't a wheelchair to push around or a nursing home to visit. 

It was my grandma and my grandpa. Together for 65 years. Living in their house together. Visiting their children and grandchildren together. Taking trips around the world together. 

The only thing they couldn't guarantee was dying together, which is why my heart breaks for my grandpa. Through a series of circumstances I won't go into, that night after the funeral, I ended up taking a drive with him. Just the two of us for about an hour.

We sat in comfortable silence for most of it, and later he thanked me for coming with him. He said he needed the escape but that he was glad to have company. He would simply break the silence every so often to whisper, "Amanda, I can't believe your grandma is gone. I just don't know what to do." 

And I'd start crying all over again.

As we drove, I thought about all the things she's taught me. Of course, she wasn't perfect. No one is. But my grandmother was a woman after God's own heart. She rarely complained. She never spoke negatively about my grandpa to others. She served and witnessed and was inside and out a beautiful person.

You see, the thing about funerals is that they're sad. Really, really sad. There's no way around it. But it's also beautiful, because that's when you celebrate a life well lived. It's also when family gathers, and that's always a good thing (at least, it should be). No matter how far you've gone, you come back. 

And it's not really for the person who has died, although sometimes it is. Mostly, though, it's for those who are left behind. It meant so much to my grandpa to have all 17 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren travel from as far away as Alaska to be there this past weekend. My grandma would have loved it. 

We caught up on life and shared stories about Grandma and took pictures. A lot of pictures.

The thing about funerals is, it allows you to take a break. Stop and really think about life and what kind of legacy you want to leave with your children and grandchildren. Think about what's really important. And about whether or not we're ready to go.

That's what this weekend was about, really.
So many hugs. So many tears. So many memories about a wonderful woman.

65 years ago, my grandma and grandpa married.
And 65 years later there were:

4 sons
4 daughters-in-law
17 grandchildren (+8 grandchildren-in-law)
14 great-grandchildren (+ one on the way)

Oh, how she would have loved this.
Anonymous said...

Good post. It's difficult to lose a grandparent. Even if it isn't a huge surprise. Glad you got to have a sweet moment with your grandpa. And great family picture! You guys are like RABBITS! Sheesh.


Amanda said...

@AudraHaha. I guess it never occurred to me because it's always been like that. But yes, I do have a large family :)