What Holds us Together

My brother in law is a bit peeved at me, or at least I suspect he is. Today we planned the funeral, the obituary and the reception afterward. We had to move the funeral to 10, which means that the reception will be about 11 am, and I pointed out that means that you need to have sandwiches and not just fruit and squares at the reception.

My BIL thinks my rule of thumb about 5 pieces per person, per hour is crazy, and that his father wouldn’t have cared about it at all. He thinks my insistence that you write an obituary a particular way, and that you have funerals in a particular order is pretentious and silly, and who cares about such things, no one knows they even exist. He doesn’t think that my FIL would have even known what to feed people after a funeral, much less cared.

Grieving, whether the loss of your 83 year old father in law, or your tiny son, a good friend, anyone, is a bit of an abyss. You are walking along, things are fine, and suddenly you come to a chasm, and you have to cross to keep on your journey, but there’s only a rickety old rope bridge, and it’s falling apart, and you aren’t sure you want to cross.

At this point, what holds us together is a reception after a funeral, a nicely written memorial card, and yes the silly things like me bringing a blue wool suit jacket, grey flannel pants, a white collared shirt and a red tie to the funeral home. They won’t really fit my FIL, his old and frail body will swim in them, but that’s not the point. He deserves the dignity of a suit, even for cremation. It matters to me to know I did right by him. Oh, I know they will probably charge extra to dress him, but there you have it, dignity is never free.

And so yes, we have sandwiches, squares, cut vegetables, fruit, coffee, tea, and punch. And maybe Otto would have never cared that we did it. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. But it is what I can do for him, it is the next step on the journey, and it is a bit of a resting place for everyone else. It is an hour, carved out of the journey of life, spent standing, eating a brownie or an egg salad sandwhich, remembering, laughing and sharing.

It is what holds us together.

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16 Responses to What Holds us Together

  1. Loretta says:

    Blessings ~

  2. debby says:

    I’ve never understood people who sit and complain about what someone else is doing.

    What someone else is doing.

    As in, not doing it themselves. Watching what somebody else is doing and complaining.

    If you wanted a suit for your FIL, and you bought the suit that you wanted for your FIL (or got the suit from his closet or whatever), why on earth would BIL complain?

    And yes. The polite thing would be to serve a light meal. People don’t have to eat like lumberjacks, but a number of people will have driven a long way, and will appreciate a sandwich. Keep your cool. You’re almost done with this chapter, and these fine people will go home.

  3. WhiteStone says:

    My sympathies, Mrs. Spit, to all your family. I’ve missed reading these past several days … dealing with family myself…family we have not seen, indeed have not met, in the past 25 years. Your day is a day of saying “goodbye”. And loving and remembering; crying and laughing. Bless you. Bless you.

  4. Delenn says:

    Often the things we do for funerals/wakes are not for the dead, but for the living. And the living need practical things like sandwiches as well as things to help them spiritually (the readings and so forth). And you are looking after both, very well.

  5. Kristin says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Funerals and memorials and receptions surrounding them aren’t for the dead. They are for the living. I agree with you that it is important for those left behind to feel like they’ve done everything respectfully and to the best of their ability. {{{Hugs}}}

  6. loribeth says:

    You are right, Mrs. Spit. I think these things do matter (whether or not they mattered to your FIL). Ritual is what guides us along when we are too shocked & numb & full of tears to properly see or think. And I know you are JUST the person to see that things are done up right! ; )

    Dh’s family just has the funeral & that’s it. They were shocked when I told them that, back home, you generally have a reception after the funeral, where people mingle & laugh & talk & eat. I think his aunt’s funeral last year was the first one we’ve been to in 25 years where we were invited for lunch afterwards, at his cousin’s house. If she hadn’t asked us, I think we would have wound up at McDonald’s or something, because I was starving by then.

  7. a says:

    I think far more hurtful things are said during funeral preparations than during any other time. I would guess that your BIL is not railing against refreshments, but against the injustice of people we love having to die. It sucks when you get to be a convenient target.

    Thinking of you and your family…

  8. Virginia says:

    It is what holds us together, though I can also see how strange your BIL might find it. It’s not for the one who is gone, it’s for the rest of us. To remember what it means to be human, what it means to love, and what it means to lose.

  9. tash says:

    Grieving is for the living. And you need to do what you feel is right for you. I’m with a above who thinks he’s taking out missing and helplessness on you and the whole notion of planning. I’m hoping he can find space to grieve in his own way, too.

    Much love to you all.

  10. Brown Owl says:

    A red bow tie, white shirt, flannels, good jacket. shoes socks.
    Treating our loved ones with respect. Marking a farewell with ritual, prayers, words, verses, candles and flowers, memories, tea, sandwiches.

    Honouring the memory, celebrating the lives of those we cherish.

    You and O, will carry that goodbye – what you did or did not do – for the rest of your days.

    And so will your BIL.

    Peace be with you Mrs. S

  11. Heidi says:

    You are doing the right thing. Don’t let BIL’s ignorance of common courtesy dissuade you. I’m glad you stood your ground. I’ll be there in spirit, holding your hand.

  12. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I second that sandwiches, etc. are for the living and that it is a sign of respect for the people who care enough about your father-in-law to show their respect by coming. You are doing it exactly right.

    Besides, you care that you’ve done it. And that is what matters.

  13. Dawn from the Frozen North says:

    So sorry to hear about your father in law. As the others have said, funerals are for the living, but they also are a mark of respect for those who have passed.

    I have always found that the reception afterwards is where I learn how my loved ones have touched the people around them. This is when we learnt that Grandpa worked on building our church as a young man…. and that he thought it would be fun to slide down the rope of the bell from the steeple… and got horrible rope burn as a result… much to the amusement of his buddies. While you are I could speak to large group, most people do not want to share their favourite memories in front of a congregation, but they will approach you at a reception and tell you amazing stories that you would never have guessed in a million years.

    Good Luck

  14. Stacey says:

    I think this is just another example of the ways in which you care for and wish to take care of others in your life. It sounds like your FIL appreciated order. I agree, these things do matter. They provide some since of familiarity and comfort to those who have lost a loved one. I’m sure your attention to detail will be appreciated by many.

  15. Loretta says:

    These ordinary details such as the menu can seem trivial in the face of a loved one’s passing, but are later often appreciated. At our daughter’s memorial service, I was awestruck at the amount of care and attention that had been put toward the food and drink, when previously it hadn’t even crossed my mind. It seemed so plentiful and thoughtful, which set a very generous tone for the gathering.
    Your efforts will be appreciated Mrs. Spit

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