Saturday, March 31, 2007

First Funeral

This morning Moses and I went to the funeral of his classmates' mother. Thursday I went to my friend Dee's funeral. Today Moses and I went to this one. Neither Mo nor I knew this woman. The boys just started kindergarten in the fall and Miles' mom went into the hospital, I believe, in October. We didn't really have a chance to know her. I wasn't sure I even knew who the dad was until I saw him this morning. I have seen him around. We introduced ourselves. How odd to be there and not know the deceased or her husband--our only connection being these six year old boys.

Moses and Miles share a locker. He is cute as a button. Mo really likes him. When we heard his mom died Moses showed true empathy. We knew Miles and his family were on their way to Michigan where his mom's side of the family lives but Mo wished he would be at school the next day. "I just want to see Miles. I just want to talk to Miles."

So, the memorial "celebration" was this morning and all Miles' classmates were invited. A letter was sent from school saying this was purely optional but gave the details, saying it would be child-friendly, child-geared. Moses wanted to go. We wanted him to go. This is what you do, right? This is how you are a friend to your friends. You show up for this stuff.

So Teresa (mom) and Annie (kindergartener) who live next door picked us up in the driving rain/almost snow and then we picked up another mom and classmate and headed to the church. I felt akward asking the dad/husband what his first name was again--but we both knew we didn't know each other so I didn't see the point in struggling through the rest of the morning not knowing his name and he didn't know mine either so it was fine....I think it was fine....I hope it was anyway...maybe I came off like a jerk, but I don't think so.

The service was lovely. The congregational hymn was Jesus Loves Me which slayed me with its simplicity. There were scripture readings followed by a sketchy (but ultimately fine) sermon and then a solo by a maybe sixth grade boy with a gorgeous soprano voice. Then the dad/husband gave the "remembrance." I simply don't know how he did it. I don't know how he stood up there and spoke about his wife but it was amazing. It was beautiful. It was a beautifully written piece, beautifully presented. I wish I had known this woman.

Then there was a children's message where someone read that "Little Nut Brown Hare" book about "how much I love you." And while we sang the closing hymn (another simple but beautiful song by Natalie Sleeth) the kids all traced their hands and signed their names on a poster for Miles so he'd know who was there. After the hymn the kids lead us out of the sanctuary, out of the church picking up helium balloons on the way. We stood in the sleet in the parking lot where the pastor gave the benediction and we let the balloons go--some with messages tied to the strings.

Back inside there were coloring books about Moms for the kids and plates of cookies. Miles had told the kids at school they were going to have nachos after the funeral but he fessed up that he was only teasing--really there was chicken noodle soup and he warned us it was bad, with really big pieces of chicken. I stood around and talked to the other kindergarten moms and dads (there were about 8 families), the principal, counselor and two kindergarten teachers from school. I spoke to Miles' dad again before I left--what a neat guy--and what thought and care went into to planning this, much of it solely for his son.

And that was that--Mo's first funeral. He knew it was sad. He knew it was heavy. But he's six. He chased Miles around the parking lot. He said, "See ya Monday at school!" I hope he knows now not to dread these sorts of things. Of course no one likes going to funerals. But it's what you do. It's how you are a friend to your friends. You show up for the funeral and then you seamlessly say, "see you Monday at school!" and chase him around the parking lot.

4 comments:

Melanie said...

wow.

Michelle D said...

Beautiful post and so true. I was a nanny for a family for 7 years and the Mother died of cancer after 4 years. I remember when I had to tell him (when she went into a coma) that she wasn't going to make it. It was a night I will never forget and the next morning he was so brave when he went to school. He was five years old and he stood up in front of his class during show-and-tell and told his classmates that his Mom was in the hospital and she wasn't coming home. He is a very private sensitive child and that was something he felt he needed to do. At her funeral I was so so grateful for the parents who brought his classmates even if they didn't know his Mother. I was also very grateful for the people who didn't avoid us out of awkwardness afterward - many did. There is just nothing to say and sometimes just continuing to be normal is so good to be around. It says, "I'm sorry and I care for you." You definitely did the right thing. God Bless!

Hope said...

Little Sammy has just started talking about death and I'm doing my best to break it down for his four year old mind, but it's a challenge. That is great what the dad did to make the event something for kids where they could approach it in their way instead of just being a small child at an adult funeral where they have no access to the service at all. Wow.

emdunbar said...

The funeral was such a good and necessary thing. I'm glad you guys enjoyed the post. Michelle, it's fun to hear from you! I drop by your blog from time to time, but had no idea you were here.

I try to think of most things with my kids as practice. Not to discount the real and present grief about Miles' mom, it is a whole thing unto itself. But is also practice for when someone Moses knows well and loves a lot dies, which will undoubtedly happen one day. He will have some sort of frame work...some idea of waht people do...I will too.