For those who have been following this series, the funeral went well. I was a good crucifer and didn’t trip on the alb I was given to wear. The service was very nice — the readings were comforting and the music was nice. One of the things I love about this parish is that the prelude music for funerals is piano hymns — not some dreary organ piece. I didn’t cry though it was hard when we were singing the last hymn (“How Great Thou Art”) because the family was crying and I am the world’s biggest sap. (Note to self: don’t people-watch during funerals when you know the family.) I made it out of the church without beaning anyone with the cross or tripping over the hem of my alb.
After changing out of my alb, I tossed my clerical shirt back on and we headed out to the car. (My non-skanky summer funeral clothes for today were a grey shirt, black knee-length skirt, and one of Jon’s unbuttoned clerical shirts in black.) I was the second car in the procession and we drove to the cemetery which is a small one in Granville. It was a really pretty one in the woods and one where I’d probably go walking in happier circumstances. I made it through the burial without crying until they started taking apart the flower arrangements to give the roses to the family to toss on the casket before it was lowered. At that point, I was standing with Jon and got teary-eyed. They offered the family the shell casings from the 21-gun salute (D was an Air Force vet) and they presented the flag that had been draped on his casket to F with a rose and shell casing tucked in.
After the burial, we followed G and the family up to G’s house in the hills. The layout and neighborhood reminded me of Las Cumbreas in the Santa Cruz mountains where some family friends of ours used to live. The house is beautiful — lots of windows to give some natural light into the house as well as a huge kitchen — it was seriously how I’d like my dream house to be. They had ham for lunch — but with sandwich fixings, salads, fresh veggies, fresh fruit, and tons of desserts. I had some chips, a ham sandwich (ham and bread), some raw carrots, lots of watermelon, and one small piece of brownie. (I really am not a chocolate dessert person if there’s fresh fruit around.) I also had the chance to talk with Bill and with some other people and it was actually an enjoyable meal. Jon and I bid everyone adieu around 1:30 and were hugged within an inch of our lives by F who promised to be at church at some point this weekend, even if it’s just the 4:00 service on Saturday.
Now that everything is over and I’ve been home for the last 8 hours, I feel kind of deflated because it’s all over. D is in the ground, the family is off grieving elsewhere, and Jon is at a congregational council meeting (read: 3 hours of debating over issues at the church). Given the adrenaline rush of the last few weeks, it is strange to have nothing to think about or do. I’m not really sad per se because I’ve gotten my grief out (for the most part) and the funeral gave me some closure. I’m also not going to be dealing with sobbing family members in the next few days, so I don’t have that to think about. Is this what I should be feeling after all is said and done?
I also almost started crying when the family was hugging me and thanking me. Granted, I am a sap but I also still can’t believe that I was all that helpful. I’m not clergy and most of what I did was hover in the background and occasionally hold hands at times when there was a need, such as last Tuesday when we received the news that D was not gonna make it. Yes, I was there two weeks ago when D was coming out of surgery — I’d driven Jon and Bill to Cols and didn’t really know where else to be. I was going to excuse myself to go to a waiting room but F came out and hugged me. That Friday, I made small talk with G because I needed something to do. On Tuesday, I walked into ICU late and found out that there was a storm brewing and figured that I probably should stick around. In other words, I really wasn’t supposed to be there; but I was. Yes, I did go make phone calls for F to get her calmed down and I did speak on her behalf when people asked what the situation with D was, but I felt like I was in the way most of the time. I did spend hours praying in the ICU and waiting room; but that’s my job as a Christian.
Granted, I haven’t had much experience with family members dying in hospitals and all but I really didn’t realize that my ministry was just *BEING* there. G is an engineer and a brilliant person — little Jen who is the Hermione of her seminary class felt really stupid talking to him that Friday; but apparently, it helped. There was nothing I could say to comfort F but apparently the fact that I was there holding her hand helped. Between the two of them, I have been hugged more times in the last two weeks than in the last 6 months by anyone non-family.
I’m just praying for NO MORE DEATHS AND NO MORE FUNERALS for awhile…