Friday, July 2, 2010

Even the best of friends cannot attend each other's funeral

Funerals are beautiful and happy or beautiful and sad. Yesterday, I got to go to the funeral for my Paternal Grandmother. She was born in 1920 and had raised 5 children. Those children led to 65 Grandchildren, Great-Grandchildren, and Great-Great Grandchildren. This alone made for a funeral that was beautiful and happy. And, as a believer, I know that she is now experiencing completeness and a fulfillment that she had ever known in this life.

As we were getting ready to go to the funeral I started to think about being born and the time when I added myself to her numbers. I was closer to the beginning of what would later be her legacy. I considered the moment of birth for the infant, the mother and the Grandmother. How different the experience is for each one—but my thoughts were more directly the infant and the Grandmother. I thought about my Grandmother’s possible reaction to my birth. I know that she wasn’t present—I was Grandchild number 9, 10 or maybe even 11 (some of us cousins are so close in age, I don’t remember who was here first). There had been babies born before me who had come out not breathing and some with special needs. I wasn’t an important birth—but even so, I am sure that I was newsworthy to her. Her only son now had a daughter. I was pink and sweet and I had fulfilled my only purpose up to this point. I was a girl. My brothers were boys born a year and a half apart and I followed as quickly as I could. In a time before Ultrasounds, my arrival was an unveiling of sorts. Had I been a boy, the entire dynamic of my family—as I now know it—would have been be altered. It was important that I didn’t fail in this first feat set before me.

It occurred to me that as Grandchildren and as Grandmothers we have certain unspoken appointments that we must keep. In a perfect world they happen in the correct order and with decades between them. I am 45 years old and my Grandmother was to be 90 this month. So, when I was born she was just about the same age that I am today. It was her role to acknowledge my birth and to celebrate the beginning of my life. At her funeral it was my role to acknowledge her death and celebrate her life in its entirety. She’s there when I am born and I am there when she dies. That’s the beauty of life.

And then there are the events that we don’t plan on attending. When a Grandmother attends a birth and then attends the funeral for that same person—the rules are broken and it is more difficult to find the beauty. I have heard it said, more times than I can count, “No parent should ever have to bury a child”. Having passed through that shadow of death and felt the sting, I agree with a hearty amen to that and I have decided that I want to have a new rule in my life. If I am there when you are born, then I don’t want to go to your funeral. But, to the fortune of things I cannot fully understand, I don’t make the rules.

Recently, I told my sister-in-law that I would be at her funeral—she could count on it. The only reason I wouldn’t be there would be because she had come to mine. There are several people in my life that I have that unspoken agreement with. Raging waters from a bursting dam won’t be able to keep me away from the funeral of some of the people in my life. Like a salmon returning to his place of birth—I will need to be there in the end to celebrate the time I had with certain people in my life. It won’t be for them, it will be for me.

For most of the next 3 or 4 decades, I hope to avoid funerals as a whole and attend many baby showers and births. That’s the plan, anyway. But, I have to say, that I don’t hate funerals as a whole. I love life too much to hate funerals. There is no other time that we are more aware of our humanity. Funerals are beautiful and happy or beautiful and sad. At least we know that they will always be beautiful, for every life, no matter how long it is lived is abounding with the potential for beauty!