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.