The funeral was hard in ways I hadn’t even thought of.
My older brother and I were the first to arrive with our photo boards and things that had been important to our mom. We hung up our coats and I remember walking up to the door of the room the service would be in. I couldn’t go through. The open casket was there in the front. I just stopped. It was all becoming too real in that moment. I hadn’t seen her since thanksgiving and this is not how imagined I would be seeing her the day after Christmas. Part of me had still been hoping that this was all a long and very detailed dream from which I would soon awake. But now it was real. I fought the tears, set our stuff down on the back pew and waited in the lobby for my dad and younger brother to get there. I just wasn’t ready for this. I don’t think anyone ever really could be.
Many of my mom’s old friends came to pay their respect. They spent a lot of time looking at the photo boards and because she didn’t like to be in front of the camera, most of the photos were from her youth or early marriage before she had my brothers and me. Countless people who hadn’t seen her since childhood or high school told me “that’s the Linda I will always remember. The healthy, energetic teenager. I won’t remember her illness.” Those words stung, even made me mad. I didn’t really know that Linda. She had been diagnosed with kidney failure when I was in 6th grade and had been declining some in health for a while before that. I hardly remember a time when she wasn’t sick. It was just a part if our life. It hurt that people weren’t going to remember her the way I knew her. I was mad that I didn’t get to know the young woman everyone kept telling me about. It just didn’t seem right to me.
The hardest part was saying good-bye. As the visitation ended and right before the service started, it was time for the family to say goodbye. We invited her best friend from childhood and her husband, who had been through it all with her, to join us. Just before they closed the casket we had a moment to say whatever we needed to one last time. It had been 2 weeks since I had heard her voice and this is not how I had thought I would be talking to her next. It was one of the hardest and most personal moments of my life. The worst part was that everyone who was there for the service was watching this. All those people who weren’t going to remember my mom the way I knew her, all those people who I had never met until today were watching. I felt exposed and I wanted them all to go away. I said goodbye to my mother and we went into the lobby to pray with the pastor before the service. When we returned the casket was closed and I knew I would never see her face again. My heart shattered.
The only thing that made any of this easier was the support of my wonderful friends. More of them than I could have hoped for came and some of them went to get food for me because that’s the last thing I had thought of when leaving for the funeral home. People who had been with me through all the ups and downs of my mom’s illness were there. People who let me cry in their arms and who pointed out pictures of her that reminded them of me. Without them I would not have been able to get through any of it.
As I continue to figure out how to grieve I have to constantly remind my self that I can only deal with the present moment, but I need to start dealing with it. I’ve been good at distracting myself these last 2 months. I’m hoping that by writing out my experience I can begin to move past parts of it that are holding me back from the healing process. I just want to thank my friends for their patience. There will be times when I cancel plans or don’t return phone calls but it’s nothing personal. Those are just the days that I’m having a hard time saying goodbye.