As a knitter, I notice texture, and weave, and patterns.
As a mom, the alert 24/7 mother hen is alive and well in me, and rises up.
And when we attend a funeral, we can't help but compare it to the other ones we have attended. When we attend a wedding, we harken back to our own, or to the ones somehow toggled in our memory to the present one.
A few years ago, as we were flying down the road to Nagadoches, our son dropped the bomb-o-news on us that he'd be doing funeral duty. We learned later (by dragging the information out of him, or by asking his patient wife) that this was an honor, that it was something he volunteered to do, and that it was a hardship on his own family, as he travelled to a funeral in the five state area around where he was stationed. I ask lots and lots of questions. I wear my family out with questions. And I marked the calendar so we could pray more surgically on his week. He'd be on this duty for a week, then off for four unless needed for a big, active duty one. Most of his funerals were the WWII vets dying in their nineties. Buried in small cemeteries, in the snow, and in the heat. He saw it all. And he does not talk about it. But, when I tried to ask him specifics last week, he deferred to the funeral director.
What the grandsons and their wives saw: Military precision, care, quiet honor and grace. What my husband saw: wrong one presented the flag, dishonor, missed opportunities. What I saw: this is what my firstborn did when he was on funeral duty, and while I never saw my son present the flag, it is done the same. Quietly. With dignity. Honor. Strength. and humility. In their fancy, dress uniform, they get down on one knee to present the flag. At no other time do we ever see a man in uniform bow nor get down on his knees. The salute is different.
And as women, I feel so superfluous at a funeral. Too emotional to speak, too out of shape to be of any help. I am easily way-layed by a tripping hazard, cold bench, (and in some irony---I had to lean against the shelter at the funeral before this one, as my back was out, and I could not stand up straight). And at a military funeral, at a military cemetery (national cemetery) they are in a hurry. They do 15-20 a day, and on these shorter winter days, there is only so much sunlight. They have a schedule to keep, so move your car, thankyou, and take your sniffling somewhere else. Show gratitude to the volunteers, and be thankful you came early.
But, as this death would have it, the memorial service will be on the 13th of February, so we have plenty of time to organize our thoughts, write, and ponder how best to comfort each other. Selfishly, I want my husband Bob to wax eloquent about his uncle because Bob is a good writer. And I love learning more about folks. And we are at that age where we look back at memories with the eyes of parents and being grandparents ourselves, and marvel how loved we were. And we did not always know it, nor acknowledge it. We took so much for granted. And if Bob writes about it, it is a gift of love, for in my opinion, his love language is words. I should not push, as grief has its own time table.
But, there is an urgency in that I have this strange desire to slap certain ones upside the head and admonish them not to muck this up. Here is a captive audience of impressionable young men----our sons, our nephews, and nieces, double cousins, almost all new parents...here is your chance oh, pastor, to teach. Maybe they won't remember whatall you say, but for half an hour, they just might listen as you wax eloquent about their grandpa, their great uncle, and our culture lies to them what a real man is.
I am expecting the sons to talk, and cry, as they did when their dear mom died. And that tells our sons, and relatives that it is okay to cry. I am expecting stories, and lots of laughter---for our family is strong on lots of laughter. I was not there, but at Bob's Mom's funeral, the then only granddaughter of 22 months shouted, AMEN, when the preacher said something she recognized. And it brought them all to tears trying to contain the laughter that bubbled out until they could climb back inside the limo. I love that story. Uncle Bill would want us to laugh, and be a family that loves each other, and comforts each other, and laughing together is part of that. Maybe the tears and laughter are the pressure releases in grief.
We all express our love in different ways---some like gifts, time, actions, words and hugs. And my eyes see through the mom-lense, and I do not want to miss any opportunities presented. Nor do I want to be accused of being controlling. or irritating. or a nag. I want to do what is right and good, for that honors the memory of the one who has passed. I am so glad I know he is partying with his loved ones in heaven. What does he see now? In that place of no more tears, no more pain...