I spend the morning feeling bizarrely light and unencumbered. Occasionally a little voice reminds me to watch my step, there is funeral today for someone I love dearly. Then another, younger and less jaded voice chimes in, gleeful, to remind me that today is different. This funeral is different.
Today we are not burying my husband. We are not saying goodbye to a young man, a father, a life cut bluntly half way through. No one here is tortured by the million “why’s” that accompany saying goodbye to someone you’ve lost through their own hands, if not their own fault.
This is a joyous occasion, if there is to be one had. This is a funeral that is truly, a celebration of a life well lived. This is an old woman, who has raised her family and done way she wanted to do. She’s had a long, happy, contented life; and she passed away when she was ill enough to wish to, but not so sick and wretched as to beg for it.
This is the way a funeral is meant to be. This is the best of it, the best of burying someone you love. The easiest, most fulfilling, least painful to do so.
This… is… awesome. This is another point of reference for my internal compass, another volume to add to the encyclopedia of human nature I’m amassing inside. This is the circle of life, complete.
I can’t describe how good it feels… it’s like a warming kiss of morning sunshine after months of restful hibernation from the snow.
There is sorrow here, of course, traces and burbles of it, as there has to be– as there is meant to be. But over eighty people arrive at the airy, nondescript chapel, and every one of them remember my grandmother as fondly as I do. The service is short and simple, sweet and soulful, and they play
Annie’s Song into the bittersweet stillness of the warm, humid midday hour. I stop on the drive there to purchase the largest, most lusciously beautiful bunch of cut flowers I can find. For my Gran, who taught me that a bunch of fresh flowers on a kitchen table instantly brightens a room no matter how shabby or untidy.
I listen intently to my mother eulogise for a full five minutes, her voice carrying the highlights of eighty years of living. My mum is strong and articulate and confident and funny, and I’m so proud of her. I know she wanted to do that, to speak the eulogy, and to do it well. For her own mother- for my Gran. And Gran would have been very ver proud of her, too.
|Flowers for my Gran.|
I smile, a tiny, peaceful smile, for most of the service, content to bath in the air of warmth and respect in the room, to remember my maternal grandmother with all the dignity that befit her. She taught me so many things, as a child, growing up slowly under her eyes while my mum and dad worked themselves broke and, in my father’s case, bitter. My gran taught me to knit, to sow and crochet. Everything I know about gardening, growing plants and cutting flowers has come from her. She and I would sit on a lounge that was firm and wide, stocked with cushions in the corners, in the lounge room of her cool, tidy granny flat on the bottom story of our house when I was five, six, seven, eight years old, and probably beyond that, too; and we’d watch midday movies together. Musicals, always musicals; and Judy Garland was our favorite. I knew every word to the score of Meet Me In St Louis (and still do), way before the Sex and the City movie premiered.
As the service finishes the curtains are drawn closed; cloaking the the tiny, almost child sized coffin from view. The day I buried my husband, this was the moment, those horribly finite curtains closing…this was the moment the ground fell in, when the floor became a mortal quicksand that encased my legs and thighs and made walking difficult, turning reality into a half-set quagmire.
This time, this funeral, it’s more a bittersweet, tangible melancholy. I will miss her so much. I am so glad she didn’t suffer. I am so proud of my mum. And I am so, so blissfully joyful my Gran is with ‘her Norm’ again, and this time, I’m sure, for good. “Goodbye, Gran” I whisper in the tiniest of voices. “Thank you. For everything. I love you.”
And then I think– I wish they would oil those f*cking curtains. Almost two years it’s been, since these very same curtains closed over Tony. And the stupid things still creak and shriek and craw as their mechanical mechanism draws them shut.
After the funeral, there’s a wake in a small local club. It’s bland finger food and tea and coffee, laughter and stories and a few more tears. But these are tears that leak from the corner of eyes, slipping down cheeks sheepishly, quickly wiped away or smiled back into the face wrinkles that accompany the simple raptures of small laughter. There are no rivers of tears here, no heaving deluges of sorrow that will wash everyone away. We drink Tia Maria and Coke, we laugh and gossip and reminisce and remember what an awesome woman my Gran really was. (A milliner. I always knew she was a milliner by trade. It it only occurred to me, laying in bed on the night of the funeral… I never asked her to teach me how to make a hat. I’m sure I will regret that, too, for quite some time– it’s a dieing skill that would cost a fortune to obtain, and my own living teacher has gone, taking that eclectic profession with her.)
If funerals can be happy, if they can be peaceful and celebrative and a healing balm… then this one was.
My Gran… she was never a big fan of funerals (is anyone. really…?). But this one… I’m almost positive she would have been happy with it. In fact, had she have been there, she probably would have had a really good time.
(Sometimes, I just hate you so much. Realizing that the happiest I’ve been in weeks was the day of my grandmother’s funeral… that was one of those times. You see, the pieces you’ve gone and left of me…?)