I was recently interviewed on a friends podcast, and after some fumbling with technology issues…she came out full force…“Would you rather people not show up for your funeral, or your wedding.” I think I was supposed to be a little flustered by the question, but it was easy…my wedding. I love that people were at my wedding, but it was really about me and my guy. If nobody showed for my funeral…ouch…that would be rough.
In whatever grade it is that you read Death of a Salesman, I did. Since I was not a super achiever in school the fact that I remember it so well is some kudos for Arthur Miller…he married Marilyn Monroe and he wrote something that struck me to the core. I really felt for Willy Loman, I totally got that he wanted people at his funeral.
My Grandma Muench (seated in photo) was a piece of work, she was rarely happy, she was opinionated, and well, she was difficult. That all said, I adored her…we were roommates and each night she would take my little cold feet and warm them in her hands so I could fall asleep. One day after school she said, you know Katharine, nobody is left, I have nobody left, I went to all of their funerals and nobody will be at mine. Holy smokes that is a lot for a kid who just wants an Oreo and some Brady Bunch, but she was right, her contemporaries were gone. She had mourned for them, who would mourn for her?
There is so much death these days. My besties husband was put in hospice care for cancer. Not being there with her in person to help is making me nuts. My mom’s friend just passed of COVID, we “attended” his service on Zoom, feeling a bit lost for the rest of the day. Another friend is putting her mom in palliative care, just watching her drift away. This week our sister-in-law lost her brother and uncle, a one two punch. So much mourning…when we can’t be together to mourn, to hug, to be present in our grief.
Funerals, memorial services, obits, they are are such a huge part of the death process. The beginning of remembering, of telling the stories, of sharing special moments, of creating the after death persona…where the beauty of a person is wrapped up and preserved. Like weddings where you reflect on your relationship…a funeral is where you think about those that you have lost. Remembering. Someone once asked me why his kids only remembered the good stuff about his wife…because she was far from perfect. He was right, but why focus on that, I told him I promised they would do the same for him, he smiled, relieved to be forgiven for his own imperfections.
Being at a funeral is one of my first memories. It was for a friend of my Grandma Muench, a friend who clearly would not be able to attend HER funeral many years later. Waiting in line. Everyone looking at something in a dark wood box with a really fancy shiny white skirt. White tights and my black Mary Janes. People were crying and laughing. So many yellow flowers.
Crying and laughing…such an odd mix of emotions…a purge of hurt and healing all at once.
I am so looking forward to those innocent days where we could go weeks, months, even a year at a time without hearing that someone we know has passed away. In the meantime I will remember the happy times, the stories, the moments where people shined…and preserve their goodness. They might not have well attended funerals but they have our attention, and our love, and that is all that really matters…they are not forgotten.