Funeral Day and Related Experiences

This past Friday, my Uncle Joe lost his battle with cancer. While his death was expected, it was still jarring and sad to get the call from my mom that morning saying that he would probably pass away that day, which he did in the afternoon. My mom and grandparents were there, with my aunt (the one who just got married) on the way.

At the beginning of the month, knowing that this was probably going to happen soon, I e-mailed both of my bosses and let them know that when it did, I wanted to be with my family. My boss at Big Famous University answered with, “Oh, absolutely, no problem, just let me know.” My boss at the tours, though, wrote, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a cover for you. This is kind of inconvenient.”

Um… I apologize if my life and, more importantly, my uncle’s death, is getting in the way of my job, which, as it happens, does not really impact society. Even when I found out the date of the funeral, my boss whined about helping me get a cover. I asked if someone was on call, since those people are there to cover in emergencies. “Well yeah,” my boss said. “But I don’t want to use him.” In the end, a different coworker cancelled her plans to cover both of my shifts. Then, as if that weren’t enough, I was asked to do a practice tour at 3:45 this afternoon. I said no.

Because most of my family were coming in from several hours a day, including my parents and sister, I told my mom that if anyone needed a place to stay, they could stay the night with me. My cousin Laura ended up taking me up on that offer. She and my uncle Merritt booked a flight from North Carolina which was scheduled to get in around 12:05. Late, but not obscene, and I offered to pick them up from the airport. But then it became so when the flight was delayed and their plane was scheduled to get in at 1:30. Now, generally, I am a night owl, but lately, I’ve been zonked out by 11, so around 10:30 last night, I took a nap so I’d be alert while driving.

I met Laura and Merritt in the airport and we hopped in my car and went to leave the parking lot… and didn’t for twenty minutes. For some reason, the gates where you paid for your parking were causing huge problems. Besides two planes from Chicago getting in at the same time, only three stations were open, making the lines really long, and the computer system must have been down or something, because two supervisors were running back and forth between stations, hitting buttons on the computer. The lines that were moving (not ours) took about five minutes per car, taking a million pictures of their license plates and seemingly interrogating them about their departure. The person in front of us was having some issues. We didn’t know what was going on except that we weren’t moving. We decided to back out and try the credit card lane, but as soon as the decision was made, a jerk decided to block us in, making moving impossible. We tried to motion for him to let us out, but he pretended to be confused. Meanwhile, the person in front of us was being handed back his credit card as he gesticulated angrily. At last, the car behind us moved when it benefited him and I pulled into the credit card lane. Merritt took my card and the pay stub and fed both into the machine. Once it was accepted and the gate went up, we gunned it out of there. It had taken twenty minutes.

Because the plane got in so much later, Laura and I had decided to book a hotel room at the same place where her mom and Merritt were staying. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gotten to my place until 3:30 am at the earliest and would’ve had to wake up earlier to get to the funeral home. So we arrived at the hotel around three, my aunt Debbie met us in the lobby to give us our key, and I was asleep about twenty minutes later.

I got up at 8:15 to find Laura already getting ready. By the time Aunt Debbie arrived to take her to go get our grandmother, I was ready to go get breakfast. I had expected to go to the dining room, gather food from the buffet, and chill in my room until I had to leave. So I went over to the breakfast room with only my meal voucher and my room key to discover that it was basically a restaurant. Like, a sit-down, give-a-tip restaurant; good thing I hadn’t shown up in my puppy dog pajamas. I didn’t know what to do. Besides the fact that I didn’t have my wallet, my wallet had no money in it. Finally, after a long internal debate, I snuck away after eating my breakfast, grabbed my wallet, visited an ATM, had the girl at the desk break my twenty, and slipped back into the dining room to put the tip on the table.

I left immediately after that, checking out of the hotel and heading to the funeral home. I was very, very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect from anyone, and it was scary. But it wasn’t too bad. It was hard to see my mom, aunt, and grandmother getting upset, but the service was nice and short and I met some relatives who had last seen me when I was knee-high. It was great to see how many people came to remember my uncle- not only family, but his friends from high school, his co-workers, the three bosses from his workplace, my grandparents’ friends, and even some of my relatives from my dad’s side. There was a lot of love in that room.

I sat in the second row with Allie, Laura, Merritt, and my dad. In front of us were my mom, my aunt, and my grandparents. There was one extra seat in their row and I kept thinking that it represented the person who was no longer able to take that seat in their family. The service, as I mentioned, was short, and Allie, Laura, and I stumbled through it, since it was a Catholic service and none of us are Catholic. Once the service was over, we hung around a little as people trickled over to the hotel where the luncheon was being held.

There were fewer people at the luncheon and it was a nice time. It felt like people had left their outward grieving at the funeral home, and as far as I experienced, normal conversation was had. My mom and aunt had made up a scrapbook of pictures of Joe and we asked people to write good memories on slips of paper to be alternated with photos.

Laura, Debbie, and I accompanied my grandparents back to their house and stayed for a little bit, but we were all exhausted. I’m very grateful to be able to sleep in tomorrow, because I was ready to go to bed around one in the afternoon. I can’t even imagine how tired my mom and aunt were, since they’d been driving back and forth for weeks, for hours on end.

My uncle’s death made us all really sad, but it’s also good that he’s not suffering anymore, as I heard my grandmother say at the funeral. Now it’s time for those who were close to him to struggle back to normal life, knowing that at least his pain has ended.

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