Emotions are bizzare. Circumstances trigger electrical impulses in your brain which trigger chemical releases which then turn into physical manifestations and actions. All are accompanied by neurological sensations which feed a circular pathway, continuing the process in a cycle.
Perhaps that’s too nerdy of a way to think about it. Perhaps I’m too stoic and sciency to allow myself to be emotional.
My grandmother died a few weeks ago, but due to various reasons her burial was delayed until this past weekend. For three weeks, I didn’t shed a tear. My mind could not process that she was gone. I felt nothing but maybe a slight murmur of sadness.
But then I took my kids to their first funeral.
I don’t think I prepared them well. In fact, I didn’t prepare them at all. We had a bit of a conversation when they needed to get clothes for it. They insisted that they *had* to have black, since that’s what people wear in movies. I managed to convince them that it could be any color, just not too bright and showy, and it had to look nice. Two of them went with black anyway.
I didn’t tell them what they would see. I remember very well the first open casket funeral I ever went to. It was an older black gentleman that my dad worked with. I had never met him in life, but he was decked out to the nines in that red velvet lined coffin. It was a shock to my young self, having never seen a dead person, much less that much glitz and glammer. I guess we die like we live, and that man had very expensive tastes. I digress.
I don’t think the kids expected to see their great grandma laying there, completely still, dressed in a simple blue dress. What I noticed most was that she was without her glasses. It’s a tough sight for me to process, honestly, I saw her at Christmas and I can remember her alive. Now that last memory is competing with this one.
I didn’t tell them about all the family, and the various ways people process grief. Some make jokes, some can’t even bring themselves to see the body. Some cry, some smile, remembering the full life of the 94 year old woman we were there to honor. Some dance to imaginary tunes playing only in their head.
My kids ran the full gambit of grief. My youngest inappropriately asked part way through “Dad, is *this* the service?” in a volume that my parent brain probably turned all the way up to eleven. My ten year old sat with my nephew and sister in front of me and I watched as the heads fell from right to left, first my sister cried, then my nephew, then my very sympathetic son. He is generally an energetically happy spirit, but he catches tears pretty easily.
My middle child cried almost invisibly, as she does most things. I could sense her crying but somehow she hid it well two seats away from me. Her hair almost completely covered a blotchy red face. My second oldest cracked little jokes almost the entire time. Everything and everyone *had* to be commented on. Quietly of course, I’m not sure who is supposed to hear her running dialog. I never look at her when she’s emotional, because she lies. I caught her wiping tears a few times in my peripheral vision, but had I looked at her she would have denied it and bottled up those feelings. It’s best to let her cry and pretend that you don’t notice.
I held myself together fairly well until my eldest broke down. She sat next to me and just about crushed my hand. She started crying ever so quietly and by about one verse into the first song we were both snotting all over ourselves. We went through all the tissues in the aisle and by the time my father was giving the eulogy we were using the insides of our coats as makeshift mucus and tear receptacles.
The whole event was a sad one, of course. Funerals are never easy, even for someone as old as my grandmother. But the thought that smacked me so very hard was realizing that one day my kids will have to bury me. My mom was laying her own mother to rest. She’s an orphan now. That relationship is over, and the pain very acute.
My kids love me. I know them and they know me well, possibly better than anyone. But one day that bond will end and they will be without me. I want to fill the intervening time with every memory and joy I can. I want them to joke about me when I’m gone. I want them to cry, but also to be happy for me. I want them to be glad they knew me.
It breaks my heart to think that one day they will hurt because I am gone. They will have to endure the end of a relationship, and feel the ugly sting of death robbing them of my presence. It was hard watching them deal with this death, and knowing that they (and indeed I for that matter) will have to experience this many more times. I can’t protect them from those pains, but I can be there for them to cry with. But when I go, who’s going to be there for them? It was that thought which broke my heart. Our bond is such a special one, the grief will be much deeper than the ones before.
Perhaps I am too clinical sometimes. I hold myself together with logic and “science” and “faith” and a stoic attitude. I *have* to be strong because so many depend on me. But every now and then it’s good to cry with those who depend on me. They need to learn how to grieve, because one day I won’t be here to grieve with them, I will be the one they are grieving.
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