March 10 – Baptism
March 17 – Wedding
March 24 – Funeral
March 31 – Worship
April 7 – Bible study
April 14 – Prayer
April 21 – Communion
For many years, I didn't know how to express sympathy to someone who had lost a loved one. I didn't know what to say. So I said nothing. I would occasionally send a sympathy card and sign my name. I would steer clear of the person because of my lack of knowing what to say or do.
Then in 1992, my father died.
He was 54 years old and I was 31. I had been married for 10 years to Wonderful Husband and our children were five and two years old.
I remember Terri bringing over dinner and it was not only delicious but I needed not to think about preparing a meal for my family. A blessing.
We lived in Maryland and I flew to Texas to be with my mother, sister, brother, aunt, and great uncle.
I remember my dad's funeral like it was yesterday. It was in the church where I had been married. I felt comforted by the worship tradition and remember listening to the bell choir and thinking that this was what heaven must sound like. God was with me.
There were many people crowded into the mid-sized church and I noticed that when I was introduced to many people that I didn't know, there were some who knew my father yet most knew my mother and were there to offer their condolences and show their sympathy to her and to us.
I remember being the "good middle child" during the time I was in Texas. Being helpful and supportive of everyone else and stuffing my sadness deep within my soul.
I remember being at the airport with my brother and watching people walk by when an older couple caught our attention. My brother said he was angry seeing them since our parents wouldn't have those years together. I remember thinking that I couldn't begrudge someone more time together.
The most embarrassing thing that happened was that after holding myself together through the airplane trip, keeping my head down and reading a magazine and willing the plane to get me back to Maryland faster, please faster...we finally landed and a woman that was seated in my row chose the time when we were almost ready to make our way down the aisle to ask me if my trip to Texas was "business or pleasure."
My eyes welled up when I said, "Neither. I was there for my father's funeral."
Ackkkkkk! I have to think that she's probably never asked that question again. I felt wretched.
I came home to a lot of sympathy cards which I still have to this day.
Here is what I learned from my father's death and his funeral:
- One purpose of the funeral was to remember my father's life and for others attending to show their love for him and their love for those of us still alive.
- The only words that needed to be said were, "I'm sorry for your loss."
- A hug is appreciated.
- Allow the grieving person to talk about whatever they want to talk about.
- Don't try to "make them feel better."
- Don't tell them your thoughts or experiences of death.
- Let them be free to say whatever they want.
- Don't judge them because grieving people can be a bit wacky. (I know from personal experience. Read: me.)
- Years later I learned there are five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, resignation, and acceptance. There is not a particular or a correct order and the other person(s) grieving probably won't be at the same stage as you are, and it's ok.
- Receiving words from others is wonderful. Receiving sympathy cards is a blessing because during the days, weeks, and months ahead, cards are tangible gifts that can be read and held when other people continue living their normal, and the one(s) left behind are still trying to adapt to their new normal.
- One thing I learned from my five year old son was the simplicity in teaching him about death. He would go play, come find me to ask me a question or two about Grandpa or heaven, then go and play. He dealt with death in small increments instead of getting weighed down. He didn't try and carry it all as one large burden. God blesses the young with wisdom.
- Lastly, I believe that God is sad when we are sad. He mourns with us and is there to help us find our way back from grief. I am grateful for my faith.
Do you have a memory or some thoughts you'd like to share about a funeral?
Thank you Mary for choosing today's topic.
Please visit Giving Up on Perfect to read what Mary and others have written about funerals.