December 27, 2011

It's a good thing Catholics drink

Today was my grandma's funeral.  And I don't know how I feel about it.  I've spent the last week or so telling people, "I'm okay.  I know my grandma's in Heaven with my grandpa, which is where she wants to be."  And I do know that.  But that's not all I feel.

The early part of the grieving process is weird because shock plays a major role.  It cushions us from reality.  It creates a barrier that protects the grieving from facing things before we're ready. 

Shock is the grieving equivalent of diaper rash cream for sore baby butts.  The pain potential is still there, but thank God for the buffer. 

During the early stages of grieving, some feelings are like slaps in the face, while others are like wading through dense fog.  What happens in real time doesn't feel quite real.  And the memory of it slips away bit by bit like a fading dream upon awakening. 

Today doesn't feel real. 

Now, you might be thinking I need to up my bipolar meds.  And maybe you're right.  And I'm sure it won't help my case when I tell you that after the memorial service, we took my grandma's ashes in an urn to Golden Corral for lunch.  She was right there at the table with us.  She loved Golden Corral, and you know we have a history there, so it made perfect sense.

We had a deacon perform the funeral rite because our priest was out of town.  Another might-I-be-in-a-sitcom? moment was when I blurted out, "I don't believe my grandma's in purgatory and I don't think most of us even believe in purgatory anyway!" as soon as the deacon left the chapel.  He'd actually mentioned the possibility that my grandma might be in purgatory.  At. her. funeral!!!!  I couldn't believe it.  My grandpa was Catholic too, and there was nary a purgatory-related utterance at his funeral.  So it's not like purgatory references are standard Catholic funeral fare.  I don't know that I could have held that in for the entire funeral, so it was probably a good thing that the deacon left after his part of the service. 

After the service, I complained about the purgatory talk to my cousin and uncle.  I mentioned that when I saw the deacon at church on Christmas Eve, he asked me how I was doing with the loss.  I replied with my usual, "I know she's in Heaven with my grandpa..." comment.  And he hesitated for what was probably 3 seconds, but felt like a minute, and said, "Well, just continue to pray for her."  And I knew that purgatory was what he meant! 

In response to my complaining, my Uncle Craig dead-panned, "It sounds like the deacon must've known your grandma."

In case you are confused at this point, I'm Catholic.  But I struggle with some Catholic Tradition. (Like arbitrary capitalization, for example.)  Belief in purgatory is another Tradition that I'm just not down with.  And here's why:  Jesus already died for the forgiveness of our sins.  So why would we need purgatory?  (If you're a devout Catholic, it may seem ridiculous to you that I was offended that a Catholic clergyman mentioned purgatory at a Catholic funeral.  But see, my offense knows no denomination.  Catholic or not, I think it's annoying for purgatory to be mentioned at someone's funeral!  That's like saying, "She's in a better place.  Well, maybe.")

So that got me riled up.  I leaned over with a WTH? look to my cousin, Missy.  She had the same expression on her face.  Which made us both crack up, of course.  Which was totally irreverent and therefore, totally appropriate for a family gathering of my clan.

And then there was the music mix-up.  In planning the funeral, I'd requested Amy Grant's version of Amazing Grace.  When I showed up for the service, I was informed that the service coordinator couldn't find the song, so it would be Celtic Women's version instead.  No big deal, I thought.  And it started off fine.  Peaceful, like you'd expect Amazing Grace to be.  But come verse two, it got all, well, CELTIC up in there!  Not quite Riverdance, but still. 

And then Ave Maria was supposed to play as the good deacon finished up his part of the memorial service.  But it didn't.  I don't know what the service coordinator was doing back there, but she sure wasn't pressing Play.  So I encouraged the deacon to just keep going.  I thought we'd just skip the song, but apparently both the deacon and the coordinator had other ideas.  He asked for the song a second time and this time the music started.  But it wasn't Ave Maria.  No, it was an encore of Celtic Women's rendition of Amazing Grace!  And then it stopped.  And then it started.  And then it stopped.  And then it started.  It was like some crazed Irishman was trying his hand at skipping records!

This went on for a few minutes.  So I got up and went to the back of the chapel and said to the coordinator, "How about we just move on?"  The moment had passed, you know?  But she was determined, so she played it anyway.  As I sat through the 4 or 5 minute song, it was hard to keep a straight face.

I was a little afraid of myself at this point.  I'd planned the service well.  But the main players were not cooperating!  I wanted it to go PERFECTLY!  I wanted to finally be able to relax and just be present.  Not coordinating things.  Not fixing things.  Not worrying about the details.  Just being present.  And I felt myself fraying.  Going just a wee bit crazy.  Hence my "DOWN WITH PURGATORY!" protest.

Fortunately, things went more smoothly when they got more personal.  After the deacon left, I read my eulogy.  Laughed a little.  Cried a little.  Then I opened the floor for other people to share their Meemaw stories.  My uncle talked about how my grandma helped him walk again after the doctors threw up their hands at his polio.  My cousins talked about how they were scared of Meemaw while they were growing up.  That she threatened to swat them when they were kids!  And I was like, "What?!"  She wasn't that way with me at all.  At least, not until the past few years!  LOL! 

Also fortunately (for HER!), the memorial service coordinator got the third and final song right.  It was Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler.

Even with the glitches, I think we really celebrated Meemaw's feisty spirit.  There was reverence and tears.  But there was also laughter and joy. 

I don't think she would have had it any other way.



  1. Based on what you've shared about Meemaw, I wouldn't be surprised to learn she was laughing her butt off the whole time - in HEAVEN, of course! Good grief. I always enjoy your stories and your insight and wit. God bless you and your family!

  2. Sorry about your grandma. :(

    And I grew up Baptist, where we use Purgatory as sound reasoning why Catholics are wrong about EVERYTHING. Lol. Though I'm not saying that. Baptists are just traditionally Catholic haters. And they don't drink. :/ Don't they sound fun? Down with Purgatory! Down with Baptists! Yay with drinking!


  3. I was all ready to be quiet and reverent and sympathetic whilst reading your post -- and yet I laughed out loud a number of times. I'm sure that your meemaw is quite tickled about the mixups and flubs that led to laughter at her funeral (:

    And as far as purgatory -- you and I and anyone else who can read and has the Holy Spirit knows that for the reason you stated "purgatory" is a big ol' bowl of B.S. if God's Grace isn't Grace, what was all that death and resurrection stuff about?

    this deacon is either a stir-the-pot drama queen, likes to play Judge, Jury and Jesus on TV, or may be looking for a free meal at golden corral in exchange for the "get outta purgatory free" indulgence he carries around for just such an occasion (; She's in heaven laughing with Jesus.

    i tried to cut and paste something here -- but it didn't work. so, i made a post just for you on my blog.

    Nature boy's kid is goign to have one funny meemaw to carry on the awesome line of meemaws.