Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The right words

I have a funeral to attend on Thursday. As with most things of this nature, it's not something that I look forward to, though I feel much more....comfortable, I guess is the right word...going to things like this than I used to.

Ya know, I had no experience with the whole funeral thing, in general, as a child. My paternal grandparents were long gone...my maternal grandfather died when I was about 4, my grandmother when I was 8 or so. Other than my grandmother's death, I don't remember attending any other funeral until I was an adult and married for the first time.

I can remember feeling so...awkward. I never knew what to say to the bereaved family members. I mean, what DO you say? "I'm sorry" always seemed so...shallow...so...inadequate. I didn't quite know how to act. Was it a major faux pas to even smile? I always felt that visitations and funerals were sort of a macabre ritual. I simply could not understand the idea of walking into a room full of grieving people, who's sole reason for being there was the displayed shell of what once was a living, breathing person. I just didn't know the protocol for funerals.

I'm not sure when it happened...I suppose it happened as I matured and had my own family funerals to attend...but it finally dawned on me that there IS no 'protocol'. Not really. Each family handles the death of a loved one differently. I've been to funerals that were more like parties...celebrations of the life of the deceased. I've been to funerals that were just incredibly somber and moving.

There IS no 'proper' way to act. You treat the family the way YOU would like them to
treat you, should you be in the same situation. There really ARE no 'right' words. Most times, you don't have to say anything. A warm hug. A pat on the back. Holding their hand. Just being there is enough. You're there for one reason and one reason, only...out of support and respect for the family.

Having said all that, there are a couple of reasons that I'm especially dreading this particular funeral. This time...well...I'm just not sure that any 'right' words or actions even exist.

About 20 years ago, I attended the funeral of my ex-brother in law, who died of pneumonia as a result of Lou Gherig's disease. He was only in his 30's. Thursday, I'll be attending the funeral of his son, who was killed in a traffic accident this past weekend. He was 21.


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