[Apr 2013] My Father’s Funeral

I faced another hard day today. I went to my father’s ashes in the morning, to the mortician in the city, right next to the hospital he had died in. I was really afraid of the whole experience, but I could be quite stable and calm. I did the paperwork, paid what I had to, sat into my car, and drove home to my mother with my father’s ashes on the back-seat. I was driving alone. I wanted to be alone. I left my girlfriend in the city, and planned to get back for her in the evening.

As I arrived home, I took the urn in the house and put it on the table in the living room. The urn was really beautiful and dignified. It didn’t cause such an overwhelming feeling that I expected to. To me it had very little to do with father, it was only kind of a symbol or something, but even as a symbol it wasn’t that powerful. Actually this is my problem with burning a corpse to ashes. It kind of skips a very difficult and also very important step in the grief process: getting rid of the body. This way it happens without us, behind our backs. I lost all my four of my grandparents between my age of 17 and 23, and they all had coffin-funerals. It was all very different, because at the funeral, the body was still with us, that could be seen and touched, but even if we hadn’t seen it, we all knew it was still there, just a couple of meters away, in the coffin, in the same room with us. We are being with it, we are guarding it, then we carry it to the cemetery together, and put it underground for ever. This last part was always one of the hardest and most touching moments of these funerals to me. Compared to this, a funeral with an urn is just a simple symbolic commemoration, much easier and shallower than a one with a coffin. The body is not here, actually is nowhere anymore, it has already gotten rid of, it exists only in our memories. And I don’t like its easiness, I don’t think it does any good in experiencing and processing my grief, because I skip a difficult step!

We discussed with mother what and how were things going to happen next day at the funeral. We discusses that I would take the ashes to the funeral parlor, and I would take care of everything else there as well. My mother asked me what time I would come home next day. I didn’t know it yet and I didn’t want to fix it yet. So I said I didn’t know. For that she started making faces and told me angrily that it was no problem, she was going to take the ashes with my brother if I was late. I lost it in a moment, and I went out of my mind. I didn’t want to believe what I had just heard. I was lucky she hadn’t told me they would take care of the funeral without me if I was late! I started crying immediately, I was sobbing loudly. All the frustration and tension of the last year, all the horrible amount of things to manage and arrange, with the horrible stress, all the energy and stamina needed, the impossibility of taking a break at any time. And after all that my mother talked to me as if I hadn’t done anything at all, and she couldn’t count on me. My mother assumes that I might be late from my father’s funeral, because I wouldn’t get up on time, or what? It felt so incredibly offensive, even the pure assumption, that I can’t really describe. She showed her legendary empathy to me again. I don’t really know why she said that to me. I was shouting at her in tears, and asked her why she told me that. I asked her if she felt like she could not count on me in the last year, if I hadn’t been there for them. I felt such pain and bitterness. She started crying and ran into the living room, laid down on the couch and started sobbing, saying that I was hurting and terrorising her again, and she was fearful of saying anything to me anymore. I didn’t want to believe that she turned herself the victim in this situation as well. I lost all my patience, I felt like I didn’t have the strength to swallow all this and comfort her. I went outside to clear my head and take a few deep breaths. Then went back to the house and sat next to my mother. She just kept on crying and crying, then started talking slowly. I was just sitting and listening to her, with an empty look on my face. I lost it all, when she told me “You should love me not only when I’ll have a dying disease”. I stood up, took my clothes, went out of the house, sat into my car and drove away home to the city. I didn’t want to believe that she was really capable of saying this to me, after all we had been through the last year. I couldn’t believe. After a few minutes I had to pull over and sent her a text message saying “I still can’t believe you said this to me!” Then I drove further, and didn’t stop until my apartment in the city.

My brother called me in the afternoon asking me about what happened, because my mother was crying all day since I had left in the morning. She had reason to cry – I thought. My brother was crying too. I told him what mother said to me in the morning. Poor little brother couldn’t say anything, he was just begging me to help them and take care of them because my mother was going to go crazy. I was pretty certain, this was going to be the end of it. That I had to swallow it all and take care of them all.

I calmed down by the evening, and I was thinking about poor daddy, and about how sad he could be seeing us. Dear Daddy! Thinking about him I collected all my stregth that I had left, I sat into my car and drove home to mother, only for daddy’s sake, in order to survive next day’s funeral. My mother was very happy seeing me again, like a little girl who thought she had lost her family. She was crying. I was crying too. But I couldn’t be not angry at her. All I could do was going home, being there, offering a gesture, but I couldn’t change my feelings. I couldn’t be genuinely happy and forgiving.

**********

The day of the hopeful redemption arrived: the day of my father’s funeral.

Last night I couldn’t sleep for very long, and in the morning I woke up several times much before the alarm. I woke up in a very nervous state. I was terrified of the day ahead of me. I pulled myself together, forced a few bits of breakfast in me, although I really didn’t feel like eating, but I knew I had to eat something in order to survive this day. Everybody woke up earlier than me, and we did all the things to do very quickly. My brother was up in the city managing something, and he picked up my girlfriend on his way home. We had lunch together, we tidied the house, opened the gates to welcome the guests, and prepared ourself. But after all these it was still very early.

I walked to the funeral parlor with the urn and the ashes. I talked to the mortician. Everything was set and fine. Entering to the parlor was less frightening than I had expected. I went back home soon. The minutes were passing painfully slowly. Fear and nervousness caught me in waves. I was afraid of how I was going to behave and keep myself in one piece on the funeral. I was struggling without a break. I wasn’t afraid of crying. I actually wanted to cry. I was afraid of weakening and passing out or something. I couldn’t escape of the thought that I had to avoid at all costs to pass out in front of everybody on my father’s funeral. I couldn’t sit still. I was walking up and down the house. Occasionally I looked at my girlfriend’s worried, helpless, and desperate face. I didn’t have to look at my mother, she kept on giving me advices about what to do. She kept on going so hard, that I couldn’t take it any longer, and let her give me a tranquilizer pill for the first time in my life. I considered taking such pills as cowardness, but this time I didn’t give a shit. A little later I felt calmer. Still I didn’t admit to mother that I felt better.

The time came eventually, and we set out for the funeral parlor. It was only a two-minute walk. I told my girlfriend to come with my friends, because she wouldn’t know anyone of our relatives in the parlor. I thought it was better for her this way, so I didn’t have to introduce her to them one by one, because this might not have been the best occasion for introductions. She understood and agreed. We entered the funeral parlor, where everything was already set. Silent, suitable classical music was playing in the background. We gathered on one side of the table with mother and my brother. There were no chairs on this side. That made me afraid, because I thought I could keep my balance easier on a chair. People started flowing in slowly, minute by minute, one by one, close and distant relatives and friends. I was moved by certain people’s presence in the beginning, and I expected I would start crying. I actually wished for crying, because I was not ashamed of that, and it could discharge my energy and my emotions. But my tears were not coming out, only despair and anxiety stayed with me. I was afraid of not being able to keep myself steady. I felt dizzy, I had nausea, I couldn’t be in the situation, I couldn’t feel it, no matter how much I wanted to. I was somewhere else. Or I just wanted to be somewhere else. I wanted to escape. I was holding on to the wall, I felt like losing my balance again and again. Relatives came and went, but I couldn’t listen to them, I couldn’t talk to them, I couldn’t be with them. Then the funeral parlor filled up with people, and everybody was just sitting and staring in front of himself, with misty and glassy eyes. I was waiting impatiently for something to happen, for the ceremony to start.

The bell rang, that signaled the start of the ceremony, so we had to go outside. I stepped out of the parlor, and a huge, never before seen crowd appeared in front of me, that had gathered silently and invisibly, while we were in the parlor. It was a heartbreaking, touching sight, seeing these many people, who loved and respected my only dear Daddy. Oh my God, how many of them, from wall to wall, under the trees in the park, all around, everywhere. I couldn’t see the end of them. We staggered down the stairs, with my brother and me holding our mother from two sides. We stoppend at the bottom of the stairs, in front of the priest we had chosen. I knew I couldn’t take hold of anything here, because there were no fixed objects near, but I felt stronger here. The crowd gave me strengh, a lot of energy actually. I knit my brows, and felt my legs taking roots in the ground so strongly, that nobody could move me even with a crane. I regained my balance and strength. We were looking right into each other’s eyes with the priest, than with the crowd. Somehow, all of a sudden my senses and my feelings came back, I felt the significance of the situation, and knew that I was here for my father, and I would show in front of everybody how important he was to me. The priest started his speech. I was listening to him for a while, then I started looking at the crowd, one by one, person by person. On our right there was my mother’s cousin with a huge flagpole in his hand, who was a good friend of my father. He was in a leather jacket, with his moustache, with a grim face looking at the ground in front of him. He loved my father very much. My father loved him too. There was no question about him carrying the flag. His unflickering face touched me. I caught sight of my dearest friends not far behind the priest, including my best friend Alex, who came home from abroad for my father and me. I greeted them with my head. My tears were flowing slowly, pleasantly, and I didn’t want to stop them. As I continued sweeping through the crowd, I noticed newer and newer, unexpected, long unseen people, whose presence moved me deeply, and strengthened my tears. Crazy amount of people.

The ceremony ended, the priest finished his nicely built and well spoken speech. I was grateful to him. The crowd stood unmoved hesitantly for a while, when the two assistants stepped up and started gathering the wreaths, and put them up on the van. They were obviously unprepared for so many people and so many wreaths. They came and went tirelessly, they carried the huge wreaths, but those didn’t seem to come to an end. The van was full, on the verge of collapse. It was kind of awkward that hundreds of people were watching idly the desperate flurry of the two assistants for long-long minutes.

We set out for the cemetery, the priest in front, the three of us after him, and the crowd following us. We had chosen a smaller urn-grave at the higher end of the cemetery, at the end of an unfinished row, with a larger empty area behind it. It gave space for the wreaths, but what happened here exceeded all our imagination. The two assistants gave the same performance again, this time backwards, taking the wreaths from the van, and putting them down on and around the grave. The crowd surrounded the grave first, but then, after a while they had to back away step by step, as the heap of wreaths grew minute by minute. The wreaths consumed about ten times the area of the grave itself, it was stunning and incredible. It grew every minute, and didn’t seem to have an end. I had never seen such a thing in this cemetery, although I had attended a few funerals before. The love of people broke my heart, seeing how many of them knew and loved my father. I was thinking about him, and about how heavily he might have been crying seeing all this.

God, I remembered how sensitive he had been in his last weeks or months. How bitterly was he weeping at my mother’s last birthday a few weeks ago, when he bought her that gigantic beautiful bunch of red flower. How he was sobbing when we spent our last afternoon in the house together and I told him he was going to die soon. Or on that evening in the hospital when he stumbled and hurt his ribs, and he told me about how carefully, nicely and kindly they treated him although they had never known him. He was sobbing when he was talking about it, they touched him so deeply with their care. He became so sensitive, poor Daddy! I imagined him up there, sobbing or rather howling with heavily flowing tears, seeing this endless crowd and incredible heap of wreaths. Dear father, who wanted a nice, calm little funeral with no expectations and fuss, with no wreaths or other expenses, because he had always believed he hadn’t deserved anything. But he deserved this and he deserved to see all this! People didn’t give a fuck about his belief about deserving or not! They didn’t give a fuck about expenses, about complications, about distances. They dropped their tools even in the end of the world, they took their car or a plane, they didn’t care about anything, they came here, bought and brought their huge beautiful wreaths, and accompanied him on his last journey, defying everything and everybody. Father should have seen this boundless, infinite love!

“Daddy, you have to see how many love you! If you ever had doubts about your life, then you should see all this, this is the answer for everything! You have never hurt anybody, you have always preferred others, you have never said a bad word about anyone, so there you are, this is what you’ve got, everything and everybody concentrated in an hour, with no excuses! Daddy, I am so proud of You! I am so glad that you were my Father! That I had such a father! I am incredibly proud of you, for everything! I have never felt such a thing before. I would kill for you! I would tear out the heart of anyone who says a bad word about you. And I would move mountains for anyone who is here today and pays his respect to you and to your life. Father, you broke my heart, I love you so much! So much! And I miss you so much!”

While I was thinking about all this, the funeral kept on going for a while. The priest finished things quickly in the cemetery. The urn with my fathers ashes was put down underground, for its final place for eternity. I caught a glimpse of my mother’s best friend. She was sobbing loud, heavily, and uncontrollably. Poor woman, she had lost her mother a few hours before we had lost our father. The condolement section followed, closing the ceremony. People came to us in endlessly long queues. Relatives, friends, everybody. My dear friends were also in the queue. I was sobbing bitterly. They all hugged me strong. Oh God my dear friends. It is so good I have them, I am so grateful and lucky!

After the ceremony we walked to the banqueting hall of the town hall for the funeral feast with the closest relatives and friends. The atmosphere was a little more relaxed there, I felt more at ease myself as well. I was with my girlfriend, and introduced her to the relatives. I could also eat a few bits. At first I just took place in a corner next to her, because I didn’t want to be too involved in the conversations. But later I gained some mood to talk more and to play the role of the host a little. Time flew faster this way, and soon people started drifting home slowly. From that I only had to chat a little with the ones leaving. I was happy for all of them, I didn’t feel this whole dinner as a burden, although my girlfriend was shocked about the pleasant and happy atmosphere of it, and found it disgraceful. He hadn’t been on too many funerals, only long ago as a little girl, and she couldn’t understand all this happy eating and drinking. I told her that I had felt the same way before, but I saw it differently this time. It was good to relieve a little and to talk to relatives who we only see in every two or three years.

After the dinner we started packing and cleaning everything with my family, and with the few closest friends of my mother. Most of the food was left untouched, just as usual. My mother’s best friend took the keys of the room incidentally and left the place with them. We went over to her with my girlfriend, and took lots of food along with us. When we came back to the town hall, we met a very good friend of the family, who had been working together with my parents a long time ago. I hadn’t seen her for the last few years, she had been walking different paths, but she attended the funeral of course. I didn’t meet her earlier this day, because she helped us arranging the dinner and the room for it. I slowed down my car as I saw her, she slowed down hers. We pulled down our car’s windows, and greeted each other. We hadn’t seen each other for a very very long time. She was sad and sympathetic as she started talking. “I didn’t want and couldn’t get to you at the condolement, because I had to arrange the room, but I wanted to tell you how terribly sorry I am about what happened to your father. Your father was a very good man.” Then she was just staring sadly to the distance. I burst into tears at her last sentence. I told her how sorry I was. I didn’t expect these words, but they felt really good. I felt her deep true heartbreak through her words. It was more than just the usual formal empty condolences.

By the evening, after finishing everything, we could breathe a little easier. I was desperately waiting for the relief, but I didn’t really believe it was really going to come. But it came. My girlfriend slept with me in the house at home. We slept in the living room on the folding couch. We made love for the first time after the death of my father. It was really intimate and passionate. Even if for just a few moments, but I really felt like I was fully present in that room, with her, in the current moment, without thinking about anything outside that little space.

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