Friday, April 23, 2010
How old were you (approximately) when you attended your first funeral? Did your parents shield you from death and grief or was it viewed as a natural part of life? Did you experience any significant loss(es) in your growing up years? What were your early impressions of death and dying? And while I do not intend this in any irreverent way, are there any amusing memories associated with a death or funeral? If you have kids, how have you handled this subject with them? Feel free to share as vulnerably or as shallowly as you want!
I did not attend a funeral until I was an adult. When I was a child we lived far away from close relatives. When my maternal grandmother died, we were stationed in Japan, so only my mother went back for the funeral.
I don't think my parents shielded me, but it wasn't a natural part of our lives either -- the military life was very different. When someone on base died, their body and their families would go somewhere else (back home, usually), so it wasn't really part of our community.
My early impressions were that it was something only grown-ups dealt with. Once I was an adult and started experiencing more loss, it took a while for me to figure out the 'ettiquite' involved - and I'm still not good at it.
When my grandfather died in 2000, it was very difficult. I adored him and he adored my children as well as me. I had flown out to Arkansas to be with him in the final days but had gone back home when he finally passed away so I did not attend the funeral. I consider myself the lucky one that I got to spend those precious last few days with him, laughing and talking and praying. Much better than standing in a church thinking, "I should have spent more time with him." The kids were really little then so it didn't really seem significant to them.
With the kids, we've not had losses that were emotionally significant to them. When my husband's father passed away, we were living all the way across the country. We traveled back for the internment of ashes at West Point (that's all the ceremony there was) in the summer, but they were so little they really don't remember much. I'm a little on tenterhooks about this because they have an over-90 great grandmother, and my husband's mother is in her 80's and not doing very well. So I'm pretty sure we'll be dealing with this in the next year or so.
We lost a very close friend nearly 3 years ago, in a very unexpected and tragic way, so that has been difficult to process for all of us. Yet, his memorial service and funeral were such celebrations of the certainty of life everlasting that I can look back at the happy memories and look forward to the knowledge that I'll see him again.
In some ways, my kids are like I was growing up, in that they've not lost classmates or parents of close friends -- those losses that seem so jarring because they're 'too soon'. And the grandparents they know well are still kickin' . . . but I'm not sure whether they'll be ready when they do experience loss.
I hope we've taught our children very clearly what Scripture teaches - that death in this temporal plane is nothing to be feared as long as one knows where one is going. But since they've not lost anyone very emotionally close to them, I'm not sure exactly what they really comprehend...stay tuned.