I’ve been to more viewings and funerals in my life than I care to remember. My grandparents were always going to the funeral home for a viewing and to pay their respects to someone in the distant family or a co-worker or a brother or sister from church. I’m talking four or five times a year. Sometimes more. I never, ever liked the visitation or the receiving of friends or the funeral or the graveside service. Never.
In my family, it didn’t matter if you liked going or not. You went out of respect, both to the dead and the family left behind. I attended these functions and I paid my respects as best as I could as a little girl and I’m not real sure I could’ve done it without the one man who was always a constant in my life. My Paw. I loved that man better than anybody. I had my Paw and he always walked with me during funerals or viewings and he somehow always made it better for me. He knew when I was getting overwhelmed with all the sadness and grief and shaking hands and hugging and crying. As a young girl who’d never lost anyone I was close to, I simply didn’t understand the pain of loss. I knew it was sad when people died, but at that young age, I had no idea just how awful that gut wrenching feeling actually was.
Outside our local funeral home there was a fountain. A fountain that was lit up at night. A fountain containing various amounts of coins each and every time we went. A wishing fountain of sorts. Looking back, I’m not real sure why there was a fountain just outside the front door where friends and family waited in line to pay their respects, but I like to think it was placed there for people like me and Paw. People that needed to get outside and breathe in some fresh air. Air that wasn’t thick with sadness and grief. People that needed to gaze upon that sparkling blue water streaming out of the top of the fountain and trickling back down onto the coins waiting at the bottom.
I cannot remember a time that we went to that funeral home that Paw didn’t give me a few coins to toss into that fountain. However, he never, ever told me to make a wish before I tossed in my coins. It wasn’t like the fountain at the mall where he or Granny would always remind me to be sure to make a wish. For whatever reason, I guess you aren’t supposed to make wishes at this particular fountain. But, he always made sure he had some change for me to toss in. Paw always made those trips to the funeral home bearable for me.
Twelve years ago, I finally understood that awful, gut wrenching sadness that envelopes every fiber of your being when someone close to you dies. Twelve years ago, I had to go to that same funeral home for a viewing and receiving of friends. I had to walk by that same fountain. Alone. Paw was there, but it wasn’t the same. This was different. This time, I was in the line of the grieving family. I was one of the crying, mourning family members. I was hugging people and shaking people’s hands, some I knew well, other’s I’d never seen before in my life. This time, I couldn’t escape to the night air and gaze at the fountain and toss coins in to get away from all the sadness. There was no escaping it. And Paw was not beside me to make it all better. This time, it was Paw’s visitation and receiving of friends and those days surrounding his death and his funeral were some of the worst days of my life.
My step Dad’s Mom recently died on the exact same day that my Paw did. Twelve years apart. I attended her funeral today. The preacher kept calling it a Home Going Celebration. A Celebration of Life. As I previously stated, I’ve been to a whole lot of funerals, but I think today just mighta been my very first Celebration of Life. I’ve heard people talk about them before, but I’d never experienced one.
This was exactly the way a funeral should be. Sure, there were tears. There was sadness. There was grief. There was all that awfulness that surrounds death. But there was also laughter and rejoicing. There were songs of praise being sung for having this woman here on earth. There were many thanks to her family and to God for having the privilege of have known this woman. It was truly a first for me and there were moments when I was deeply touched and moved by all of this Celebration of Life.
It made me miss Paw so terribly bad and it made me wish we’d have had a Celebration of Life for him when he died instead of all that crying and sadness and what seemed like never-ending grief and pain. I know in my heart of hearts that he’s in Heaven and that he’s happier where he’s at, just like my step Dad’s Mom.
That doesn’t make me miss him any less.