It’s interesting what happens when someone close to you dies at the age of 99. Death, obviously, is never easy, and funerals of any kind are always pretty heartbreaking, especially when your stepdad speaks about his mother being the best woman he has ever known but it’s barely audible because he is so choked up and can’t even get the words out. And then, seriously, I audibly had to ask my mom to make my brother stop speaking because watching your baby brother cry? NOT OKAY. Also, the funeral was graveside. In Wisconsin. In January. So, I am thankful that I had my friend Riva’s Canada Goose parka so I wouldn’t freeze in my $40 felt peacoat. My toes, on the other hand, may still need to be amputated. We aren’t 100% sure.
But once the funeral is over and everyone has gone back to your parents’ house for a week’s worth of shiva sitting
(which, basically, to those of you who don’t know, is where the mourners sit for seven days in beach chairs and people come to visit and pay condolences and bring you a tremendous amount of food and baked goods. There are little customary things that happen, like prayers and the mirrors have to be covered and there’s something about not being able to shower but mostly there’s a lot of eating happening)
the tone changes a bit. The sadness changes into a sort of celebration of the life of a person who was around to see her children get married and her grandchildren get married. We look at old school pictures from when she was a young fiery red-headed actress in the Yiddish theater. It’s sad, still, of course, but it’s hard to deny the fact that this woman was just a very lucky lady and is leaving behind a legacy she can be proud of. There’s no denying this, of course, and once we realize that it’s so nice to have so much of the family together all in one place. My sister. My brother. My cousins. My cousin’s spouses and children. There’s always that wee unspoken elephant that’s saying, “Gosh, I wish it hadn’t taken a death in the family to bring us all here together,”
(One day my brother will get married and we will all get together for a happy occasion, but, I mean, Jessy is still being introduced as “Michael’s FRIEND Jessy.”)
but there’s something REALLY nice about it. My family…remarriages aside…is so small. My mother was an only child and my father only has one brother, who only has one daughter, so it’s really just great to be a part of a family where there are so many relatives. I mean, my mom’s house isn’t small, and yet it seemed to be bursting at the seams. There were people everywhere. Playing games (Settlers of Catan, FTW!), eating slightly underbaked but perfectly delicious brownies, trying to find mystery smells in the fridge, bribing children with silly bandz, a quick emergency trip to Target, drinking copious amounts of Starbucks coffee (my mother bought FIVE GALLONS)(not an exaggeration), discussing important things like indie movies and vasectomies and whether or not my Aunt Rita is allowed to celebrate her 65th birthday (it’s today) even though she is sitting shiva, and, obviously, a PJ-party sleepover with my sister.
So, while yes, no one should ever feel the ache and hurt of losing a loved one, I guess we all can really only hope for this kind of celebration when we go. Family and loves ones coming together and having a good time, remembering YOU and how they are all together and are all a family because of you.
But I’m all for skipping the whole freezing graveside SAD part.