Thursday, May 24, 2012
Art of Saying Goodbye
The first funeral I ever attended was my mother's funeral when I was ten. Some of those memories are as bright and sharp today as they were fifty-two years ago. She died May 28th in the middle of the night in a car accident in the lonely deserts of New Mexico. On June 1st she was buried in a sunny cemetery outside of Mesa, Arizona after a packed funeral at a Baptist church in Chandler. There were so many people attending that some stood outside for the service.
Much of that day is a blur of impressions. For me, they could have skipped the service, sang a few songs, and moved right to the graveside service. Actually, I'm still wondering after all these years why there's a long service at the church or funeral home prior to the graveside service?
How many ways can you say goodbye?
My favorite family story from a funeral was when my Grandfather Martin died very suddenly from a stroke during surgery. After the church service and graveside service there was a huge family picnic (because we are a numerous family--Grandmother was one of nine and Grandfather was one of thirteen--plus progeny). After the picnic they organized a softball game. AND Grandmother was the umpire. I was very little when he died but I have no trouble envisioning my Grandmother umping this family game after the funeral.
I have no doubt she grieved. None at all. But she had a spine of steel. And her grieving would have been done in private.
I can count on one hand all the funerals I've attended. For most of my married life, I've lived very far from my family--too far to attend most funerals.
I have some questions...
Why do we wait until someone's dead to make them a priority? Why not visit them when they're alive, instead?
Why, why, why is there a big service before going to the graveside? Why not just go there and be done with it?
Why not have a small graveside service for those who live nearby and then a big memorial get-together a few months later where people can relate their favorite memories of their loved one? Maybe even a picnic or barbecue...
How is one more respectful than another?
What do you think? How do you say goodbye to a loved one?