Funeral week…

I am so ridiculously tired. All I want to do is sleep.

It’s been one hell of a week, a week I won’t soon forget. I know it may be a bit morbid to place my funeral experience on here, but it is a part of the process of my healing.

Christmas was sad. Someone was missing – Grandpa. The enormity of what had transpired in the past week only hit me Wednesday night, when we went to the funeral home to view Grandpa in his casket. My first glimpse of him was from across the room, a glimpse which made me burst into tears. The sobs came in fits and starts over the next half hour or so, and then we went home.

The next day was a nightmare of sorts. The power went off in Rosthern and surrounding areas around 8:30 in the morning. We later found out a semi had hit the ditch (why it veered off the road is still the subject of much town gossip) and took out a number of power poles.

My Mom and I (but mostly Mom) had put together a slide show of pictures of Grandpa, which was to be played to a CD of him and his band, the Silvertones. The Silvertones were a group of 60-something men who played ‘old-time’ music. They were very popular in their hay-day; Grandpa played the accordion. We went to the church in the morning to get everything set up as much as we could – without power.

1:00 came around and I made my way to the church to set up whatever else was left; the power had come back on. I started my prelude at 1:30, and shortly after that, the power went off again. 10 minutes later, it was back on, just in time.

During the prelude I began to cry. I was playing “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling” and the tears began to stream down my face. The pain was so acute at that moment. I managed to get it together in time to play the opening hymn.

The eulogy was read by my Dad and my Auntie Faye. It was heartfelt, with the right mix of seriousness and humor. The slide show was nice, except for some color issues; if the power had been on in the morning we would have had it all straightened out. Michelle and Jeff read the scripture readings, followed by one of the most beautiful sermons from Pastor Lynn of the Lutheran church. Prayer followed, and then came time for me to sing Grandpa’s favourite hymn.

I’d rehearsed what I was going to say before I sang. I’d gone over it so many times, with it becoming longer each time. I wanted to say how I’d come to realize that Grandpa’s office was a microcosm of his life, and how I hadn’t realized that until this past week. I also wanted to mention how as I reflected on my memories of Grandpa, some became blurred, blurred to the point where I wonder whether the memories are real or some idealized versions of what I wish they would have been. And I wanted to say the little German verse Grandpa taught me when I was 4 or 5, and which I can recite to this day.

I ended up saying a little of all the above. And I ended up crying again. But in true performer spirit, I ‘sucked it up’ and sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Grandpa’s favourite hymn. My Mom later told me that she’d never heard me sound more beautiful. One of Grandpa’s friends began to cry later on as he told my Mom that Grandpa would’ve been so proud of me. My family was overjoyed with my performance, shocked I was able to carry it off. To me, it felt like nothing. Honestly. I think God helped my deliver that song that afternoon, for it felt too easy, my voice too strong.

The internment at the cemetery was heartbreaking. Having to leave your loved one behind is a pain beyond description. The odd part of it was the fact that I finally saw where my Dad’s brother, Uncle Perry, is buried. He died in a roofing accident in 1979; my parents had barely begun dating, and my Mom had never met him. I walked over to Uncle Perry’s grave with my Dad and said, “Hi, Uncle Perry.” I know he can’t hear me, but I wanted to say it anyway. It was as if I had met him for the first time. A small beginning in the midst of an ending.

We left the grave and went back to the church. It was there that I realized how exhausted I was. I had helped plan the funeral, helped set up, helped with everything during the week. Being involved in almost every part of the funeral had taken an emotional toll on me I had not foreseen.

I’m not sure I really believe Grandpa’s gone. I went through the motions, but as I sit here writing this, it all seems unreal. Maybe it’s because Grandpa wasn’t a part of my everyday life. Maybe it’s – I don’t know.

All I know is that life goes on. As Grandpa would say, “What it is, is what it is.” He would want me to go on with my life, enjoying every day, making my mark wherever I go.

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