Tessa: Recently I have gone to funerals of two women I don’t know. Both of them died of complications related to Alzheimer’s. We weren’t really sure we were even going to go to the first funeral and because I didn’t know Angelina, the mother of our friend Eva, I didn’t really think it would affect me.
We arrived a little late and sat at the back of the church. I took a photocard of Eva’s mom and sat down and studied her face. The photo was black and white and have been taken a few years ago but she looked remarkably like her daughter. Just then the casket entered the church. I’m not sure what happened but as soon as I saw the casket I felt like I was a part of a community of people that were saying goodbye to her. Sending her along her way, taking her to her final resting place and I found it such an intensely crazy personal moment in this woman’s life that I completely broke down.
By the time Dave looked at me I was shaking with sobs. You don’t know her he said. Yes I know. But I’m saying goodbye to a mom. She’s a mother and she’s going to her final resting place. And we’re here. And. And it makes me feel sad. Hmmn.
The next funeral was a few weeks ago. This was for Dave’s best friend’s mother Angela who had suffered with Alzeihmer’s for 12 years. Because I had gone through this recently I thought I had come to terms with this kind of situation.
So again, we entered the church (late) and sat in the back. The service was a little lighter, more English spoken, lots of singing. It was all good. I felt strong. Happy almost to be a part of this person’s community who were gathered to say goodbye. Then came Ava Maria. I could feel a slight weakening inside. That song is a soul buster. Then. All the grandchildren gathered to bring last gifts for their grandmother. Another seismic shift inside. But still, I was hanging on. Thinking of snow. Thinking of snow. Then all the boys, grown men carrying their mother’s casket down the aisle. There was something about this that broke me. This strong woman who had given birth to nine children and had raised them mostly on her own, her sons carrying her as if she was the child, to her final destination. As the procession passed, John, our good friend grabbed Dave’s arm.
We all turned and said peace be with you and followed the family out into the lobby. By the time I saw John it was over. Sobbing. Like a child. Body heaving. He introduced me to his mother’s brother, who I’m sure was wondering who I was, crying as if she was my own mom. I looked at him and felt slightly ridiculous. But what can you do? He hugged me and said everything was going to be alright. Thanks I said. And continued to cry.
By the time we went to the cemetery and then back to the Austrian Club, I had managed to collect myself. I went into the bathroom and looked at my salad head. Wild, crazy, unruly head of hair. A woman who looked like the woman who had died looked at me and said you you wan to borrow my hair pick? No. Yes you do. Here, it will look much better. Okay. So I did and it really did look much better.
Now there will be no surprises. Every funeral I go to I’ll cry like a baby.
I was telling my sister this story and she said maybe you were crying for the universal mother. And I thought. That’s it. I was feeling the weight of losing every mom. Grieving for the universal mother.
6 responses to “Reckless Sobbing at Strangers’ Funerals”
You’re so tender hearted. I’m so glad I ran across this post. I completely understand what you went through…I would have done the same thing.
You should read up on empaths. I am one and it sounds as if you are as well. Taking on the emotions of others around you. It’s a gift as well as a curse.
Hi Jillian, I think you’re right. It does make life richer or deeper or more of a rollercoaster but I think it also helps guide some of the work I do and how I respond to the world and to some of its issues and inhabitants. Thanks for stopping by.
agreed! Same here.
My friend had a beautiful dog: part husky and part Australian shepherd. Big beautiful young happy dog. She was hit by a car on a busy street and died. One look at that dog, and I literally threw myself on the dog’s body and wept (as I said later, like an old Italian lady at a funeral) uncontrollably for a long time. I don’t think it was really about the dog, but a much deeper sadness and grief that, I think, we walk around with every day.
I agree with you. I think we all have small bits of grief that we carry and is sometimes sparked by a situation. I was so struck at how crazy personal a funeral is. Watching her grown sons carry her coffin out, the music – there was a fundamental human pageantry about the whole experience.