Of Funerals and Family

The real tragedy of funerals, of course, is that the guest of honour doesn’t get to enjoy all the familial good times.

On April 11th, my grandmother died. It was one of those unexpected-expected deaths: you kind of knew it was coming, someday, but you didn’t know it was going to be today.

The family gathered at the old homestead, the farm where she and Grandpa lived since, oh, probably sometime shortly after the end of the Second World War (they married in 1945, and I don’t think it was too long after that they moved to the farm). Mom’s siblings have scattered eastward: she has sisters in Winnipeg and Ottawa, and her brother lives in Nova Scotia. They all came, along with both my sisters. I got to see cousins that I haven’t seen in, oh, twelve years or so. People grow.

The clan

My nephews had a grand old time. They suddenly had a field of five new playmates that they hadn’t really seen a lot of, and so they’d go trooping off into the farmyard to explore the flooded haymeadow in Dad’s little duck boat, or climb the mound of snow that was only beginning to sag in the 20° C weather.

Lake Hrushowy Kings of the hill

The rest of us did all the things Grandma would’ve loved (and did love, in life) to be a part of: we played cards, and we played our family dice game (which we call “Blew It”, but who knows what the official name is), and we sat around and talked and laughed and cried. For a few days, till everyone had to leave, we were one big happy family, united in our grief.

The actual mechanics of the viewing and the funeral were the moments when I felt most that Grandma was gone. Seeing her in the coffin, I kept thinking, something’s wrong. Of course something’s wrong. She’s not breathing. She looked like a fantastically detailed mannequin. When I touched her hand, it was cold. I remember those hands pounding my back with surprising force in her trademark Grandma Hug. Of course I cried. If I didn’t I might as well be made of stone.

It was a rough week in some ways–her passing hit my mom’s eldest sister pretty hard, I think–but it was a good week, too. We gathered. We came together. We were–and are–family.

Grandpa and Mom

PS: You might think that steak, eggs, and perogies for breakfast sounds like a good idea, but trust me, it’s an awesome idea.