Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stiff Necks and Guilt

Sometimes, I know that I'm not a good person.
I'm not saying that in the hopes that one of you readers will try to talk me out of it.
I'm selfish, not as generous or as kind as I should be.
This morning, I went over in my mind the things that I'm dreading. The visiting hours this evening for my friend's daughter's death, along with Katie's funeral Monday morning. I half hoped I wouldn't be able to find a substitute teacher so I couldn't go to the funeral.
I signed up to take dessert for the funeral luncheon, but I didn't go to mass this morning, where I might have talked to or comforted the family.
And now, the pain in my neck has begun -- a pain I had for
two weeks when my Aunt Lorena died.
I could, of course, skip the visiting hours and the funeral. One of my friends from church called and as we talked she said she expected I wouldn't be able to get out of teaching to attend the funeral. I could have grabbed at that straw and assumed everyone else would think that too.
But, I knew that although I could easily skip the funeral and the visitation, my once best friend Cathy could not. I could pretend that nothing had happened, but she is living with the fact that her 21-year-old daughter died.
And for that reason alone, I will be there this evening, offering my sympathy because I know that nothing can be done to ease their pain. And I will be at the funeral mass on Monday morning. I will drive to the cemetery and watch their tears fall as handfuls of dirt are tossed into the hole that holds their daughter.
I think that I might be able to help their daughters. I was 14 when my sister died. Katie's sisters are 18 and 12. I'm the godmother to the younger one.
But what could I tell them?
My sister Tammy in her senior picture. She died
the night before her high school graduation.
I could warn them that as they move forward in their lives, at each milestone, they'll feel the emotional abyss left behind with the loss of Katie. As they complete college and celebrate with their family, they'll feel Katie's absence. When they plan their weddings or give birth to children, they'll feel that ache -- the certain feeling that an older sister would have good advice and experience to share.
But why should I warn them. They'll know soon enough, and at least they'll have each other, along with their two brothers.
I burst out last night and told Grace that whenever I die, they should just plan the service quickly. I hate the limbo, the in-between time when you can't even pretend that things will be normal because of the wait for the services. I remember that time when my sister died, and with Thanksgiving, the wait has been even longer for Katie's funeral.
As a sister, and I imagine as a parent, the toughest part is to leave the person you love in the metal box, no matter how lovely and lined with silk, to close the lid of that box and leave her in the funeral home or the church. I wouldn't be able to bear it. I cried copious tears at that thought of leaving my sister all alone in the church the night of the visitation.
But I will go tonight and recall happy memories of Katie, in the hopes that I can share some joy in the midst of this painful season.

9 comments:

Terra said...

You are so doing the right thing by being there, and offering a little support or comfort to the family. Hard times for them, now and ahead, and they will remember you being there.

Paulita said...

Terra, you're right. I dread the funeral less now that I went to the visitation last night. I'll keep trying to do the right thing even when I know my instincts tell me to take the easy way out.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

My dear Paulita ..you are doing the right thing, offering comfort to the family . Thinking of you xx

Paulita said...

Thanks, Anne

Jeanie said...

Oh, Paulita, my heart breaks for you. This is so hard. So very hard. But I truly admire that you are doing this -- the right thing, though to stay away I know would be understood. You are indeed a wonderful friend and your actions will be long remembered and cherished.

Esme said...

I understand you not wanting to go. The poor family. This is so sad.

Just Me said...

Thank you for your post Paulita. I know how ridiculously inappropriate that comment is on such a deeply personal and painful topic but openness is commendable. I'm sorry I'm so late reading it. My heart goes out to all of you.

aguja said...

It will be enough for Katie's sisters to know that you empathise. It does not need more than a simple sentence; their just knowing that you have, in your own way, shared their experience, will form a bond, a thread. The unspoken tie of grief will help them to feel that they are not totally alone in the devastation of their loss.

So heartbreaking - and your thoughts and feelings so understandable.

Paulita said...

Thanks to everyone for your support and your suggestions to help me on the road to being a better person! The funeral was terribly sad, as you can imagine. The parents' ability to carry on is very impressive.

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