My father's funeral

It's rather unreal that you must start preparing a funeral almost right away when you hear about the loss of a loved one. The first decision  you  need to make is the choice of a mortuary and funeral service. While you're just grasping the new reality in disbelief, you must decide which clothes your father is going to wear for eternity.

Five hours after the phone call,
a few hours after we waited with my father for the doctor on duty to arrive and confirm what was obvious,
a few hours after phoning the funeral service, 
just shortly after returning to a strangely empty house , they came to our house and we started to arrange for the funeral. 

The funeral director asked us gently multiple questions and typed on his laptop...after an hour he announced to my surprise that the funeral announcement was ready in draft and printed us an example.   Then there it was...on paper on our living room table. The reality. The proof. A slap in the face and yet also a relief that this first hurdle had been taken.

Frankly, I found arranging the funeral soothing.  It forced me to take a deep breath and to focus. It gave me a to do.  The first days were taken by gathering and updating address lists and writing envelops, by meeting the dean, by filing the letters that returned from the printing company in the envelops, etc..

The next to days were focused on preparing the actual service.  I read so many funeral texts, scripts, poems, ...listened to music etc.  Right from the start both my sister and I had decided we'd try to write and read our own testimonial.  I compiled texts from what I found but also found my own words (and tears).  This was a reading that I wrote.  I also wrote my own testimonial and I  read it out loud for the mirror many times as advised, letting all the tears flow freely that needed to come, learning to pause and grasp breath and continue.  To me, spending a lot of time and effort in all details of the service were very important  and I belief my sister and mother felt the same way. It's bluntly the last and only thing you can do.  We already had to experience multiple funerals in our family in the last decades and I also find that the routines, symbols, rituals help me in dealing with the loss.  It's something that I need.

It's hard to believe that the funeral is already 2,5 weeks ago.  It seems ages ago.  It also still feels so fresh. In the mean time we've received quite some positive comments on the service that came across as personal and warm and beautiful.  Obviously people won't tell us if they find it otherwise and religious services aren't the cup of tea of everyone and I understand that very well.  But after all this was the service that my mother, my sister and I wanted to give to my father, supported by friends and family and that's all that matters.

I'm grateful for the religious rituals that my parents raised me with
I'm grateful that we've been able to choose, write and bring the texts we wanted
I'm grateful for our friends that gave a voice to those texts for us.
I'm grateful that I found the strength to walk up and to read my own testimonial in front of everyone.
I'm grateful for the testimonials given by our dean and by a former colleague of my dad
I'm grateful to have been in the parish church were my parents attended church together each week until last winter...where they sat on their fixed spot. It's the church in the shadow of my mom's classroom and my dad's former school is only 200 m further across the river.  It's the church where I've played the flute with the youth choir for many years on all holidays.  It was meaningful to be together on that location.
I'm grateful that the organist of the church, a professional musician, could play the flute live in the service... where I stood decades ago with him.
I'm grateful that the instrument that I've played all my youth at our house played again for my father.
I'm grateful to have played the live recording from Puccini's Messa di Gloria's Kyrie, where both my parents were singing in the choir. Music that my father this winter listened too and directed at the kitchen table. It was very emotional to listen and to know I was listening to my father's voice among other. I'm grateful that his own voice was part of his service.
I'm grateful for the beautiful flowers in the church
I'm grateful that 2 of my friends discretely have taken some pictures on my request as a reminder of this difficult but beautiful moment.
I'm grateful for so many seats filled with faces from my past and present, there in support and love for my dad and us.


Anne said…
Begrafenissen... we zien er soms tegenop, maar ze zijn zo belangrijk in het afscheid. We hebben die rituelen nodig.
Goofball said…
ja we hebben die rituelen nodig
Leen said…
Dat is eigenlijk nog één van de weinige redenen dat ik naar de kerk ga: voor de rituelen. De zekerheden. De houvast. Bij een begrafenis wordt dat nog eens pijnlijk duidelijk. Heel, heel veel sterkte.

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