This January will be 5 years my father is gone.
That’s 1,825 days of not seeing my Dad.
That’s 60 long months of not hugging my Dad.
That’s 43,800 hours of not hearing my Dad’s voice.
And despite all of that time passing I can still give you a list of who did NOT attend my father’s funeral.
Yup, you read that right.
In the 5 years of me learning how to live without the man who taught me everything in life but how to live without him I STILL have not forgotten the VERY FEW people who did NOT attend his funeral.
Now, some of you are probably reading this thinking, “how petty!” or “I told you she’s a child.” And I’ll tell you the people thinking that are probably the ones who didn’t attend the funeral or just haven’t experienced grief yet.
I am a firm believer of always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.
The first time I tried to get out of going to a funeral I was 15 years old and it was a close family friend. I wanted to stay home, watch TV and eat cheese puffs. When I pleaded my case as to why I couldn’t go, my father looked at me directly in the eyes and said, “Lisa you’re going to the funeral. We ALWAYS go to the funeral. It’s our last chance to pay respects for the deceased, and we go for the family they need us now more than ever.”
It was an awkward experience for me. I was one of the only kids there. Everyone was sobbing, and I felt out of place. But I held my Dads hand tight and together we made our way up to the family. I remember whispering, “I’m sorry for your loss.” I also remember the husband of the deceased hugging me tight, almost like he was hanging on for dear life and quietly whispering back, “Thank you.” At the time I couldn’t possibly understand what just happened, I was far to young to understand the impact of attending a funeral.
The family never forgot that we attended and years later thanked me for making time to pay my respects. When my Dad died almost 20 years later that entire family drove over an hour to attend my dad’s funeral.
It’s pretty simple, when someone dies you make time out of your busy life and go to the funeral.
We go to the funeral even when we really, really don’t want to. We go to pay respects for the deceased, but we also go for the surviving family members.
We go because at some point in life we all experience the horrific pain of death, and when that happens I can promise you the pain is unlike anything you have ever experienced before and you too will be hugging funeral attendees holding on for dear life.
My father died on a snowy January night right before Martin Luther King’s birthday. He died after a long, horrific battle with cancer. He died with my mother, my sister and me holding his hands crying our hearts out. He died before a long holiday weekend for many. I’m sure the people who made time to attend my Dad’s funeral had plans for the long holiday weekend. Plans of skiing, shopping or just hanging out.
Planning my Dad’s funeral was painful despite all the preparations he did beforehand for us. I kept waiting for my Dad to show up to take care of it like he always did. Going through his closet for the perfect suit and tie for people to stand over his casket was gut wrenching. It was especially difficult because my father was gravely ill from cancer and wasn’t able to wear a suit for years. We buried him in his Ugg slippers with the lower half of his casket closed. For some reason I insisted that he HAD to wear his slippers. I think my poor mother was too grief stricken to really care if he had slippers on, so slippers it was. When the moment came for our private family viewing I felt sick. The man in the casket didn’t look like MY father. His cheekbones were sunk in and his hands were like ice. After about 20 minutes of freaking out that my father was wearing makeup and didn’t look like my father, I pulled it together for the guests to arrive. Despite going to grandparents, aunts, uncles and friend’s funerals burying my father was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I felt dazed and physically ill the entire time. I felt like I was stuck in quick sand, I knew I had to hug and thank all of these incredible people for coming but I felt like I was drowning in my grief. I remember hugging every single person in that room, clinging to them for dear life.
I sat in the front row with my Mom in a daze. At one point I turned around and looked back at all the people waiting to enter and pay respects. The memory of police officers in full uniform saluting my Dad’s casket, friends young and old waiting in line to pay respects not just to my Dad but his wife and children still takes my breath away. It was the most powerful and humbling thing I have ever experienced. Countless inconvenienced people on a snowy evening during a holiday weekend who also believe in going to the funeral.
And THAT my friends is why we go to the funeral in our busy, chaotic lives-we go for the deceased but we also go for the surviving family members.