Imagine you have a little box. It is a good-sized box which might be covered in a layer dust on it depending how often you pull it out. The edges might be well worn and the sides perhaps dented from being handled fairly often, or your box may be in pristine condition without a mark or scratch to tell you its been touched. The box is full of memories, but there is always room for one more. Each time you add one, the memories that were previous stored inside come billowing out, reminding you of past experiences.
I feel like grief is that box.
On Saturday I attended a celebration of life for dear Gord, who passed away just before the start of the new year. It was a beautiful service and truly a celebration of his life. Gord would have loved it. He would have been so pleased that it was standing room only, with people laughing, smiling and sharing stories of his wonderful life.
Whenever someone passes away or I have to attend a funeral, I am always transported to my mother’s funeral. My emotions and feelings of grief bubble right back up to the surface and my box of grief splays open. I have spent a lot of my life grieving and healing, but there is something about funerals that takes me right back there.
At the age of 13, my mother’s funeral was the first one I ever attended. I remember going with my grandmother to pick out an outfit for my mother to wear for the viewing. It was a pale green suit that she would have loved, as green was her favourite colour, but was a little more formal than anything I had ever seen her wear (she was a jeans & t-shirt kinda gal). I later went shopping with my grandmother to buy a new outfit to wear for the funeral. “Going somewhere special?”, the helpful saleswoman asked as I tried on black pinstripe pants. “Yes”, my grandmother replied softly before telling me that the pants fit fine and pushing me back into the change room so I wouldn’t have to give any more details as to where I was going.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of the actual funeral. The casket was to be closed for the service, so the funeral staff brought us into a private room just before we were to start so we could say our goodbyes prior to them closing the casket. After “staying very strong” for the 2 viewings, I cried for the entire service. I don’t remember the readings or any of the speakers. I don’t know how many people were there or how big the room was. When it was over I was taken to the front of the funeral home, where I felt like I was in real time while a fast forward movie went on around me. I remember seeing fast-moving blurs of people around me, stopping to talk and leaving a few at a time, but I don’t remember who they were, nor our conversations.
I have one vivid memory from the viewing. I was standing with my uncle outside the room where my mom was, chatting with one of my middle school teachers. There was another viewing taking place in the room across the hall, and from where I was standing I could see the casket of the deceased. There was a woman standing in front of the casket, looking down thoughtfully. I turned back to my conversation, only to be approached by the woman a few seconds later.
“Is that your mom?” she asked, gesturing to my mother’s casket.
“Yes” I replied.
”Show me her”
She took me by the hand and walked up to my mother’s casket with me. Her hand was very cold. We stood there for a few minutes before she said “She was very beautiful”. And walked away.
I am not a religious person, but I truly believe she was an angel. Whether she was a being from another realm or just a kind, kooky soul who wanders around funeral homes in the GTA, it was truly a beautiful moment in my life and something I will hold with me forever. 12 years later, that is one of the only memories of my mom’s funeral that really stands out in my mind. Attending Gord’s service on Saturday brought my grief box out of its tucked away corner, and brought back memories of my mom’s death & funeral as well as many of the subsequent funerals I have attended since then.
On days when I need a little extra love, I always wear a locket my Aunt Sharon gave to me that has a picture of mom in it. It is the perfect anchor. In the picture she looks happy and healthy and it’s comforting to hold her so close to my heart.
On February 24th I will dedicate my performance to my mom and Gord, as the day marks her death anniversary and his birthday.
I will miss Gord’s sense of humour and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. No one could stop a show like Gord. In the last couple weeks I have cried and laughed as I thought about him and the shows we did together. I will add his memory to my box, and put it back on the shelf until the next time I need it. It won’t be the same without him in the audience on opening night, but I know he’ll be watching from the best seat in the house, sharing a snack and a giggle with my mom.
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.”