I attended a funeral yesterday. For me, the death of an elderly relative is so close to my everyday work that the usually clear line between my work and personal life gets blurred. In the days leading up to the funeral, I was pragmatic. My uncle was in his late 80s and had endured years of medical intervention and treatments that often left him quite exhausted at the end of each day. His physical frailty was at odds with his mental sharpness but he found ways to still engage in his hobbies and maintain his religious faith.
My uncle last illness was a brief one. He appeared to be in a deep and peaceful sleep. Days earlier, he had met with his parish priest. In my professional life, I would argue that this would be the 'ideal' way to 'go'. To not linger through pain and indignity and for loved ones to be left only with the best last memories of the person they knew and treasured. Yes, though death is very sad, at times it can be a blessed release.
In the days that passed between his death and the funeral mass yesterday, I remained convinced of my logic and did not cry. But as the service began though, so did the tears. Because of so many things. The hymn 'Amazing Grace' being sung. Seeing my aunt on her own, in the midst of her own grief but also able to be concerned for how I was coping. Her outward calm as she made sure things were just so. And then her one public moment of grief by her husband's coffin as she took a single yellow rose from its floral arrangement before returning to her pew.
It is one thing to be 'prepared' and pragmatic about death but it is another when it happens to someone you love. The grief is often not so much for the person who has left behind their physical pain but for those who are left behind.
My uncle's early adult life was one of constant change and uncertainty against the backdrop of war. He survived largely because of God's will and the experiences of those years shaped the rest of his life and were never forgotten. I was honoured when he told me his story that first day I met him when he welcomed me into the family just before Mr SSG and I were married. It was his hope that his family would never forget the past and also that we would stay close to one another. They are hopes that I am glad he was able to see materialize.
Goodbye and God bless, Uncle J. May you rest in peace.