Everybody’s been to a funeral at least once in their lives. We go to the funerals and visitations to support our family and friends who have lost. We know that there is planning that takes place and money that exchanges hands, we know that somebody had to arrange for everything, that certain decisions were made. When we walk into the funeral and everything is done we make comments on the beautiful flowers and how everything is set up and how many people showed up, but we don’t readily think about how much planning or how little planning went into the service. In all honesty no one wants to think about that, it’s hard enough to just know that a person has died. That someone we care about is hurting because of this death. We don’t actively think about who made the arrangements, who sat at the somber table or desk going over the costs and the insurance or lack there of, or how it was decided what the person would wear, or if there would be a burial or cremation. We know these decisions had to be made, but don’t think about who or how or why everything was decided.
Sitting across from the man at the funeral parlor was surreal. I had the clothes that I was asked to bring and I had my sister-in-law and her husband. There was a little cart with water, coffee, soda, cookies, and crackers I think. I remember thinking “why is there food here? Who could possibly eat while planning a loved ones funeral?” This is going to sound so completely odd and maybe a little repugnant to some of you and to some it will sound completely normal. I don’t remember a lot of details about that day. I couldn’t tell you what I was wearing or really what the place looked like. I do remember laughing, I remember a few tears (but they could have been from laughing). I remember walking in and sitting down and feeling like I was going to throw up at any second, I remember not feeling real, like it was some sort of morbid dream. We sat down and started talking, there was the usual condolences given and then there were the options. That’s when everything started getting kind of weird. Tara, John and I started talking about Justin and we started laughing. We talked about cremation because somehow all of us knew that Justin wouldn’t have wanted his body stuffed into a box and taking up space in the ground. Then we laughed at the cost of everything, because holy cow! I didn’t realize that a simple cremation and memorial service could cost so much! We laughed because we all knew what Justin would say “Don’t F***ing spend that much money! Take me out in the backyard and start a fire.” Not that he was money hungry, he just struggled all his life for very little so when he had money he stuck it away. But life is hard and our jobs didn’t pay much and bills piled up, so we didn’t have much in the way of money. Insurance? Hell no! Who can afford it? No he hid some money in the house and that was all I had to fund my Justin’s death. A whopping $3,000 when everything cost over $4,0000. What did I do? What were my decisions? Well I was lucky in a way, I had Tara and John. Tara and I were both in the fog, John a little less so, we talked about the options and the money that I had and the funeral director was a good guy. So after we told our Justin stories and heard a few stories from the funeral director about odd funeral planning sessions, we de-frilled or in my own words Justinfied the memorial service. As for the cremation we were offered 2 options. Okay, I have to say that when the funeral director said 2 options, my poor battered brain thought about when my mom’s cat died and she had 2 options; single cremation or a group cremation. I know that is morbid and disgusting but that is where my mind went that day. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this is not what was actually being discussed. The options were different price options, we chose the one that fit the budget. Then John took us out to lunch and we laughed some more, eating and sharing memories and planning the memorial service. And those cookies that were at the funeral parlor? We had some of those before we left. Looking back on it now, I feel like the pain had lifted just for a moment and I was able to do what was needed. A bridge was started that day, the first support was set. Though the progress of that bridge would stop and restart many times it was a beginning, a way to cross the abyss that circled and swirled around me. A bridge is needed, because whether we want it to or not life does go on, the world spins around and people keep moving no matter how badly you wish for everything to just be still.