Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Mary

We had the funeral for my mother-in-law last Wednesday. Mary was a Buddhist, and the Buddhist funeral apparently needs to happen after three days have passed, as they believe that the consciousness remains until those three days have gone by.

It still feels weird that she's gone... it's almost disruptive. I'm used to her ringtone, as she used to talk to Becca a few times every day. There's a void there, but it's not scary... sometimes it makes me cry, but it's not crippling. I'm processing my grief better than I usually do when someone important to me dies.

Part of it is just taking the time out to still be alive and take care of ourselves. Like they always tell me in therapy, self-care is an important part of healing. I've been making sure that we eat and that we don't try to do everything at once. I think it's created a sense of orderliness that helps. Becca's pretty on task when it comes to meeting with lawyers and financial advisers and getting the probate filed and what we're going to end up doing with Mary's house.

It's also yielded some nice moments. We went to a barbecue place in Hinckley, one town over from where the funeral was, just an hour before the funeral. I tried brisket for the first time ever; I wolfed down a brisket sandwich with hot sauce and some fries, and looked around at the place's decorations, which were all kinds of pop culture goodies: action figures, arcade cabinets, old lunchboxes, comic book pin-ups, old toys... and they were piping in Christmas music, which I've not heard much of this year. It was wonderful. It took us out of the situation for 30 minutes and let us recharge before going in and setting up for the viewing.

The funeral was very nice. Mary's family is Catholic, so most of the family members who came left during the viewing, before the ceremony, because they weren't comfortable attending a rite from a different religion. Seems close-minded to me, but whatever. I think there were only 10 other people who stayed for it besides Becca and I. That made it feel informal and intimate. We were invited to share if we wanted to, rather than following a formal order. There was something loose about it that grounded me.

The woman who performed the ceremony burned a picture of Mary over a bowl of sand, symbolizing her consciousness leaving the body. She talked about samsara, the cycle of life and death, and about Mary's journey in Buddhism. There was a chant, and it ended informally. It was very nice. I have to admit, no Christian funeral has ever felt comforting to me. They feel oppressive and hopeless. They leave me with the feeling that we have no control over our own wills, and I don't like that feeling at all. This Buddhist ceremony left me feeling comforted and hopeful, glad that I had Mary in my life rather than angry and betrayed that she was gone. Because of it, I'm actually handling my grief far better than I've ever handled the remaining grief and survivor's guilt from my sister's death nearly a decade ago. It felt spiritual without feeling doctrinal.

(I don't say this to offend Christians; I'm not judging your religion, just saying that it doesn't work for me personally. I was raised Lutheran, so a lot of this comes from experience.)

So here it is, nearly a week on, and I still have moments of sadness, like we all do. And you know, I think this being the holiday season actually helps, because there are so many things about the holiday season that make me happy. Even though her death was sudden, it still feels natural, and I have this weird--well, weird for me--sense that we're going to be okay through this. That's a strange sensation for me, because I'm always the first to fall apart.

I think I also can't discount that the holiday season means a break from my regular routine, so I don't feel that emotional guilt about dropping out a little bit while I go through this. But it's nice to feel like I'm handling a situation for once, especially a big one, like this.

So far, so good.

So far.


Roger Owen Green said...

There are good Christian funerals and bad ones. I've been to a lot of both.

Oddly, the thing that struck me: you'd never had brisket before? Damn, good brisket I could literally eat daily. (I mean I OUGHTN'T to, but as tastes go...)

Devilham said...

your post was very comforting, as I was worried for you and Becca, seeing as how you were so down a few weeks back. I'm very happy for you that your finding your center and handling things, keep it up, and know that I'm rooting for you guys.