Sunday, October 21, 2012

Funeral Notes

We went to my Uncle Gary's funeral this weekend.  It was strange being in Gary's town and his house without him.  It will take time to adjust to the new reality of life without him.  Aunt Sonja asked me to write something about Gary for the funeral service, so I did.  Writing it helped me process his death and reminded me how much he influenced my life.  I read the piece at the funeral and was honored to do so. 

This was Rachel's first experience with death and funerals and she had LOTS of questions.  One of my cousins refers to her as The Girl with a Thousand Questions and that was certainly true this weekend!  I learned that if you want some comic relief at a funeral, bring along an inquisitive 4 year old...

We have been talking about Gary and death for more than a week, but for Rachel, none of it really made sense until the day of the funeral.  Rae loved the funeral dinner and meeting the crowds of relatives, many of them seeing her for the first time.  She is such a social kid!  The flower service afterward was considerably less interesting for her.  She saw no point in looking at flowers and listening to cards being read, so she asked me a million questions, starting with "Where's Uncle Gary?"  I told her his body was in the casket in front of us and that his spirit, the part that made him think and feel, was in heaven.  "Gary's in the box?"  Yes.  "Is all of him in The Box?"  Yes.  Several minutes later - "Even his head?"  Uh, yeah, his head too!  That lead to who put him in The Box? why? what is he wearing? can he move? what are they going to do with The Box? and endless more.  During the funeral itself, her questions slowed a little.  She wanted to know who all those people in the church were and then was quite impressed that Gary had so many friends.  She was also worried that people were sad and some cried.

The girls rode to the cemetery with Granny and Poppy.  Rachel, of course, had more questions.  She wanted to know who Sonja was going to be married to now.  Granny explained that Sonja was still married to Gary, she was just alone now.  Rachel was worried that Sonja would be lonely.  When Granny pointed out the long, long of cars moving to the cemetery, Rachel asked "Who is the line leader?"

I held Rachel through the graveside service and she had more questions.  Where was Gary's cough?  (It took me a few minutes to figure out she meant coffin.) What were they going to do with The Box?  Was Gary still inside?  Were they going to put dirt on him?  Who did that?  Why?  Was he going to be in the ground forever?  There was an American Legion honor guard and Rachel watched them wide-eyed.  Then she put her had on my cheek and solemnly asked "Are they going to shoot us?"  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!  I assured her that the men with guns were just going to make a loud noise.  She nodded and put her hands over her ears in preparation.  After the service, I had to answer questions about cemeteries, gravestones, grave markers, and assorted people in attendence.  I don't think I have ever thought so much about funerals!

On the long drive home today, I heard Rachel singing The Wheels on the Bus in the backseat.  After a while, I realized that she had changed the words.  She was cheerfully singing "We're all sad 'cause Gary died, Gary died, Gary died.  We're all sad 'cause Gary died, all around the town."  This girl can always make me smile...

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