On Sunday, I attended my first funeral and burial. I’ve been to two wakes during my Serve programme but I didn’t know the families or the deceased much so there was no emotion for me when I saw the bodies.
The man who died was the brother of my late maternal grandfather (so he’s my great-uncle). He was very close to my mom and her sisters after their dad (my maternal grandfather) died suddenly and so he meant a lot to them. For myself and my cousins, we were mostly there for formality sake because I don’t think I’ve ever had much contact with him (and even if I did, I certainly wasn’t old enough to remember).
Because we are family, we had to sit in front in the sanctuary. We were in the third row. Right behind his grandchildren.
When the funeral started, his son and grandsons carried his coffin into the church. The girls followed behind. They left it along the aisle in front and to my surprise, they opened the coffin completely. So you could see the entire body. That was kind of scary.
The service started and as expected, everything was somber and sad. The eulogy was certainly very formal in my opinion. It was more about telling us his life story from the time that he was born. If I were giving it, I would have spent more time recounting my favourite memories of him but then again, it was my first funeral so I don’t know how these things are done.
All throughout the eulogy, all I could think of was what if it was my grandfather’s funeral. What if I was giving the eulogy. What would I say? I don’t know why but I couldn’t get that out of my mind.
After everything, the people that came were invited to come forward and to put flowers in his coffin. The family was to go last. After we went, his grandchildren and son crowded around his body and they were all sobbing and holding each other. I guess they realised that this was the last time they would ever see him again and that finally sunk in for everyone considering that they were calm up till that point.
It was horrible sitting there and bearing witness to it all. I felt like I was intruding. Part of me kept thinking that this is what it would be like when my grandparents die. Of course I hate thinking about my family dying. Who does? But all this was just a bit too real.
I could hear my aunt sobbing in the pew behind me. My mom was crying and I too was fighting tears. Part of me felt like it just wasn’t my place to cry because I didn’t even know the man.
When the family had their time for their final goodbyes, the funeral people put the lid back on the coffin and they started to screw the lid shut. That was by far the scariest thing I experienced throughout the entire service. I don’t know. Just the idea that he was being locked up in that box. That his whole life had led to him being trapped in a box. That he was being screwed into a box and he was going to be lowered into the ground forever. It was just a bit much for me. If he was my grandfather, I would not have been able to manage seeing that.
After that, the men carried the coffin back out to the van and everyone filed out to go to the burial. We got there and it was really muddy and hot. Everyone was given a flower and we sang a couple of songs as the coffin was being lowered into the ground. Again it just was to real and final for me. We then had to throw our flowers and a little bit of soil (I say soil to be polite but really it was mud) into the coffin hole thing and then we left.
That evening, my mom was talking to me about her dad’s funeral. She told me that it was very similar except that there was more crying because he was taken very suddenly and pretty young. My mom and her sisters were just young adults at that time. My mom told me that when her dad’s body arrived at the house in the coffin, she fainted. Hearing that was really scary to be honest.
I’m glad I have this blog so that I can always remember this. So that I can remember how I felt and what I thought about. My mom asked me when we got home if I felt scared at any point. I lied and said no because I didn’t want to talk about the finality of death. Or of how I scared I would have been if I had been in that box. Because even if I were dead, I would know right? I would be scared if someone was locking me up in a box and burying me so deep in the ground.
Writing this post has made me a bit upset. I don’t know. I just googled graves that have been dug up to see what it would look like after so many years and the pictures disturbed me quite a bit.
Anyway, I’m Christian and I believe in Heaven. My grand uncle was a good Christian man who lived his life for the work of the Lord. I do believe that he is up there with God now. May he rest in peace.