Taking Care of Family Business

This leads me to the narrative of my experiences with my father’s funeral.  After the shocking events regarding my mother’s burial, all of the siblings agreed to take care of family business ourselves.

First of all, I want to share the events leading up to my father’s death.  My husband was an adult trainer with the government and he travelled at lot giving courses all over the country.   For the first time I was able to accompany him to Ottawa, so we left on Friday and stopped in Montreal to visit my sister and my father for the weekend.  It had been such a long time since seeing my Dad and I spent the hours chatting and thoroughly enjoying the visit.  When it came time to leave, I was sad to say goodbye but promises were made to visit again soon.   As we were about to pull out of the parking lot, a tremendous wave of sadness washed over me, and I began to sob uncontrollably.  My husband was startled, to say the least.  He had never seen me like this.  It took a good few minutes for me to come to myself again.  When I could finally explain, I said, “That’s the last time I will see Dad”.  My husband assured me that we would return the following month, I became quiet.  But I knew that next month’s visit would be too late.  I just knew it!  And I was right.

Although I stayed calm during Dad’s wake and funeral,  I was nervous about the plans that we, siblings, had agreed upon to “take care of family business”.  I went with my sister to make the final arrangements with the funeral director.  At first, my sister did all the talking as she finalized the choice of coffin, costs, and time for the wake.  When that was done, I spoke up and informed the director of how things were going to happen at the grave-site.  I said we were going to make sure that the grave-robbers would have no use for the coffin when we got done with it.  The funeral director’s face became extremely red when he realized that we knew all about the casket scam, that was prevalent in the area.  He agreed to allow us to ‘do our thing’ when the time came.

I have very little recollection of what happened between the funeral parlor and the grave.  However, the memory of five middle-aged, trench-coated, miserable-looking folks, bundled against the bitter, damp. cold November day is deeply etched in my mind.  It occurred to me at the time that we must have looked like a bunch of druids as we shuffled around the grave, shifting from foot, in our nervousness.

After the graveside prayers, everyone else left the site.  We then asked the mortuary pall bearers to lower the casket and remove the straps.  The poor young fellows looked almost as nervous as we felt.  Finally one of the found a small ladder and descended into the hole to remove the straps.  My youngest brother, who does not handle emotional situations very well at the best of times,  was his usual unpredictable self.  “What would happen if we took the ladder away and left him down there?”  We were used to his warped sense of humor, but the look of horror on the young man’s face was worthy of any scary movie!

When the pall bearers finally left us to our own devices, we began the work.  Brother number 1,  retrieved several shovels from his car, and we set to work.  Each of us selected some fairly good-sized rocks and hurled them down on top of the casket.  I said a prayer with each rock that I threw.  This was the last gift I would be able to give Dad.  By the time we had exhausted ourselves with this activity, the casket was badly dented and scarred – hopefully of absolutely no use to anyone else.

This event made us, five middle-aged siblings, a unit, probably for the first time since we were kids, when it was “us against them” (whoever ‘they’ were).  I left with a strong sense of fulfillment, of resolution at last!  I realized then that, no matter how we are separated by space and time…no matter our differences, our family is strong.

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