The funeral was one week ago, and I feel like I must capture my impressions before they fade away.
I borrowed a black shirt, a belt and a tie from my uncle; and black shoes from my brother. I looked sharp I think, Christine would have been pleased with it. I had prepared my speech and left in in a manila envelope on the table of the entrance hallway, so I would not forget.
As we were making our way in the car to the parish in Park Extension I realized I had left my speech behind. When we do things so that we “don’t forget”, we actually put our mind in a state of ease, and lacking vigilance we don’t remind ourselves of the very things we were supposed to do or take.
I told my uncle that I’d have to go back to fetch it after mass. He asked why I wouldn’t say it by heart. I answered it was impossible I’d stumble hopelessly through my speech. I’m not the kind of person who speaks off the cuff.
We arrived to Ascension Parish, a surprisingly nondescript church in a nondescript street in a nondescript neighborhood. From the outside it looked like an old building, it could have been a school or a government office. I thought it didn’t suit Christine, and perhaps it wouldn’t have been her favorite church had it not been her childhood parish.
The priest was a man from India, he had the countenance and body of a spiritual man, if he had not been a catholic priest he would have been a yogi. I was pleased with him, but I couldn’t help but think Christine would have been furious about him because his accent was so thick, and the acoustics of the place so bad, we could barely understand anything at mass.
During mass the priest read a psalm which I might have misinterpreted because of the acoustics of the location, paraphrasing I understood something like “Lord, if I don’t have the power to forgive, please forgive in my name”, and I thought yes that’s true, even though I do not believe in hell, I wouldn’t want Christine to go there. I would like her to be received by God with open arms. This must mean any grudge I have is temporary, and since I have not let go yet, I will ask God to forgive her. And so I did. This prayer gave me peace and things have settled down, inwardly.
After mass I no longer felt that I needed to read from my piece of paper. It is only after writing this that I notice: the feeling of forgiveness is that which unblocked my willingness to go off-script, because it allowed me to be spontaneous. When your heart has been liberated from brooding you feel free to speak your mind.
We made our way to Mt. Royal Cemetery where we had the reception. There was wine. I had just enough wine to feel confident without risking oversharing, and then everyone’s turn to say some words came. First it was Rick, then it was David, then it was me. As I spoke about Christine I remember people’s faces and I perceived relief at first—this is probably my imagination—as if they thought I would go up to vent my frustrations (which would have been a valid concern, to be honest). But then, as I went through the virtues I experienced in Christine, I say people assenting as if to say “yes, that’s her”, and even though I muddled through my speech, I can say it was better than reading out loud because I could feel and resonate with other people as I was speaking.
The rest of the evening was spent mingling at the funeral home. As the sun was coming down, the funeral was dispersed, and we had a walk on the cemetery grounds. After the walk we said goodbye to my brother, and we head to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. After dinner we came home and played “viuda”, a card game we used to play with my grandmother on my mother’s side. We thought it would be a nice way to honor both of our grandmothers because Christine liked playing cards too (my cousins and I share the same grandparents, because my father and his brother married my mother and her sister).
It’s been a week since then. I’m not mourning, but I’m not resenting either. I find peace with what has happened and how it happened. I know that if I would have stayed, she might have held on a little longer. Her longevity was not my responsibility.
As I write this I find difficult sensations. When my dog Nina died, I mourned her for months. Near the end of my mourning, I was riding my bike back home and tears started streaming down my face against the wind. I thought “impossible, after all this time, I’m still crying for her”. But, with that thought came another one: if the loss of a living being causes such grief and emptiness on this side, that is because it is received with the opposite emotions on the other side. She is received with elation and brings fullness into heaven with her presence.
If I am equally honest with my feelings this time, the relief and peace that I feel with my grandmother’s passing dot paint a pretty picture for her welcoming on the other side.