Thoughts From A Wake

This past week, the mother of a friend of mine passed away. It was rather sudden, and consequently hit her family pretty hard. I bought a card for my friend, but thought I should also attend the calling hours for her mom, as well. Not having much experience with deaths and funerals, yet, I am not sure if participating in the services would be expected of me, since I am not a very close friend. But my sister in law once told me that if I had any feeling at all I should go, I should go. So I did.

I told Luke when I was leaving that if it was too crowded, I would drop off my cards and leave. But when I got there, I could see how rude that would be to do- it was crowded, but the line of people wove in and out of the funeral home’s rooms, and most everyone could see everyone else. I got in line.

The first room the line crossed looked like the administrative office. Papers were strewn across the desk, including copies of the video of family pictures that was playing in the foyer. I thought it was strange to have the people walk through here, then inappropriate that the family’s personal things were laying out. Since I was alone, it was a challenge to find things to do with myself. I didn’t feel I could strike up a conversation with my neighbor, a hippie type, or my other neighbors, an older couple. It just didn’t seem right.

Once into the hallway, the line actually came round to the end of the family receiving line. Many at that point were giving a small wave or smile to those they knew in the family. One lady was not paying attention, so advanced in line to shake hands with the family, not knowing the line switched back. She ended up behind me.

For some reason, at this point I felt I could start talking to my new neighbor. I found out how she was acquainted to the deceased, and how my friend’s mom actually died. The Facebook posts were vague, and rightly so, so I didn’t have much information. Seems she was feeling tired, and at some point ill enough to be admitted to the hospital. Then, about two weeks later, she passed away during the night. The doctors didn’t know exactly what was wrong with her, were going through a series of tests, but the thought of death was far from anyone’s minds, so no one was prepared for that to happen.

A bit after talking my new friend pulled out her phone. I had noticed, and was appreciatively surprised, that NO ONE in that long long line was on their phones!!! What a testimony to the solemnity of the occasion. And an honor to this woman’s family. But she was not being obnoxious on hers, and I realized I should check mine for messages, so I told her I was glad she had hers out. Now that I was not the only one right now, I wouldn’t appear as rude, ha ha.

As we advanced, another lady joined our quiet conversation about death, what we’ve experienced with it so far, who we’ve lost, how we’ve dealt with the children it affected, and so on. I was heartened to hear their perspectives and theology mirrored my own; this woman who passed away was active in her local church, but also worked in the school system, so I could have been standing beside someone with a completely different faith background. But instead, we were able to encourage each other. Funny how the second half of my time in line went faster than the first, as we talked.

We got to talking about our stuff we keep around, knowing our kids won’t want it, but still we keep it. I told them I had 13 children, and back for our wedding we had registered for the plates with a setting for 12, thinking the 16 was too many (!) The one lady interrupted me- “You have thirteen children?! I have thirteen children!” What’s your name…” And we began to trade big family stories until we reached the family. What are the odds of being in that line with another mother of 13 children? Not odds, but God, for sure.

My bereaved friend was in shock. And all cryed out (for now) and so angry. But she still looked lovely. She told my new friend in line that she was done with life, that she just wanted Jesus to come and have it over with. I’ve been there, too. Read any of my posts about Micaiah if you want a sample of my feelings there. And then, I recalled another funeral (in this same building) I attended, for a newborn baby my friend had had, with so many medical problems he only lived a few minutes. I will never forget the way she looked at that tiny casket, with tears running down her cheeks, as if to say, this really hurts. I hate that this had to happen. Why do I have to say goodbye to someone I just met? Let me die, too.

It is good that my friend was being honest with her thoughts and feelings. And she realized that the funeral was only the beginning. Soon she would return to life with a new emptiness. Thanksgiving next week, and Christmas. And her young children, needing reminded of where Grandma was. She had just posted on Facebook weeks before about how her mom was her rock. Now it would be those left behind to be her support, but ultimately God. Though she is probably upset with Him now, she knows He can take it. That He’ll always be there listening.