It was my Gran’s funeral yesterday. It was… really great. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but it was. I suppose we’re allowed to enjoy a funeral when someone’s had an excellent innings and there’s no elements of tragedy.
I’m really proud of myself for planning it and executing some nice details like putting up a big montage picture frame etc at the wake. And also I gave the main eulogy, and didn’t cry, even drew a few fond chuckles from the congregation with the anecdotes.
A couple of weeks ago my mum said to me, “don’t worry, we won’t ask you to SING, remember when you sang at your Aunt’s funeral and started crying?” (for the record, I sang the whole solo verse I was meant to and only broke down in the last phrase). Then my dad said after gran’s funeral, “very well done, I was very concerned that you’d get too emotional”.
Wtf is it with my parents’ terror of me, God forbid, CRYING whilst talking/singing at a funeral. We went to an African friend’s funeral recently where his sisters were literally on the floor wailing by his coffin. Surely crying is totally THE THING to do at a funeral.
So despite myself, I felt partly victorious that I’d proven my parents “wrong”, by not crying at the funeral. In fact, my husband said it was my dad who looked on the verge of tears during his bible reading.
I know, I know- what we all know is this is about THEIR fears, not really about ME. They also forget just how much of my time professionally is spent talking or singing in front of people (and often singing at funerals, usually of strangers, though), so it’s all in a day’s work. I’m just reflecting on how much my parents’ fear of showing emotion in public has affected me, and I’m actively forgiving them and LETTING GO of it.
I’m also reflecting on how this day would have gone if it had been 14 months ago, when I was still drinking. I would have used the whole “stress” of firstly the last few weeks of Gran’s life, and then the funeral planning, as an excuse to drink even more than usual. I would have been hungover at the funeral. I would have had the best part of a bottle of wine at the wake (at which no-one else was even drinking except my husband, uncle and brother had one beer each), and probably would have exploded in anger when my dad praised my eulogy-giving in his slightly back-handed way. I probably would have gone off on one at him and told him that his critically high standards were the cause of me being such a fuck-up (I basically told him this one evening just before I stopped drinking when he observed that my friend had gained weight, I told him his tendency to make this kind of comment lead to me having an eating disorder, and forced him to let me out of his car about 5 miles’ walk from town)…
But yesterday, I just smiled, said, “well, I’m more resilient than you know”, and there was no bitterness.
I witnessed all sorts of trauma evidently bubbling up for my mum in the days leading up to the funeral- she made all sorts of bitter comments about her mother (Gran had a pretty rocky road, mental health-wise, which certainly took its toll on me after she made an exceptionally dramatic suicide attempt when I was 11 [let’s just say, it made national news], but I expect more so for my mother, who actually…. had her as a mother). I realised how grateful I am to be in a generation where therapy is destigmatised to a great degree. I suddenly thought, “my God, you’ve never spoken about this before, have you?”, as my mother started saying unpleasant things about Gran. I found it unpleasant and traumatic to hear, but so grateful I was able to listen to her respectfully rather than cut her down and getting upset, as I certainly would have done whilst drinking.
When I did part of “May cause Miracles” just before I quit drinking, one of the main fears I wrote down was, “that I’ll lose someone I love, and I won’t cope”. But I am coping. Boom.