I hate funerals.
Actually that is a pretty stupid statement because I mean really... WHO freaking loves funerals?
Yesterday we farewelled a precious Uncle - my Dad's brother, and all I kept thinking about throughout the day was just how lucky I am.
A few weeks ago when my Dad was in ICU, a funeral was the thing we feared most. And although I am so saddened by the loss of such a special family member, I feel so incredibly blessed and grateful to still have my own Dad with me.
From the moment I opened my eyes yesterday morning I was filled with dread about the day ahead.
It's the pain you can feel at funerals that I dread most. The agony you can see in the eyes of those left behind. The sadness as you watch them they say their goodbyes. The longing you can feel in their smiles as they talk about memories and good times, and the remorse with which they hug people that they haven't seen for so long and probably wouldn't have seen if it were not for such a reason as a funeral.
I have been fortunate enough that I have not had to attend many funerals so far in my lifetime. I can only count 4 actually - which at age 40 is quite a blessing.
When I do attend a funeral, I have this weird thing I do where I look for little signs. A little message from the one we are saying goodbye to. I'm strange like that, but I am sure it is something I inherited from my late Aunt who would totally be doing the same thing.
Yesterday I looked, and there they were - a few signs that gave me my reason to smile and cleared the fog of dread I woke with.
As we waited outside the chapel for the others to arrive, I was thinking about how final death is. You know you die and then that's it - thanks for coming, the show's over... and then I turned and saw a young Dad feeding his new baby, and it reminded me that with death comes life and hope and wonder and new beginnings.
We never really die do we.
A sign? I'll claim it.
Notorious for being late to things, my hubby and I were determined to get to the service on time, especially as we were taking my Mum and Dad with us. By miracle of miracles we got there with plenty of time to spare.
It wasn't until 10 minutes or so later as we sat waiting for the others to arrive that a whole load of mourners solemnly exited the church behind a casket, and we realised we were sitting outside the wrong chapel. Worse still we were sitting right in front of the hearse in which these poor people were about to place their loved one. We were FRONT ROW. With no choice but to quietly excuse ourselves from the crowd of mourners and walk right through the middle of them all to go to where we were supposed to be.
A sign? Oh heck - my Uncle had a wicked sense of humour so I'm claiming it.
I was asked to do the reading at the service and determined not to let emotion get the better of me and stuff it up - I practised my reading over and over again the night before.
Literally minutes before the service started, the priest changed the reading on me and showed me the new pages I was to read with very clear instructions to "read this bit, not this bit, read these two bits and this bit but definitely leave this bit out as it is for when we do a funeral for a priest who has passed".
Of course - I stuffed it up and as I began reading about how our dear Uncle had dedicated his life to the priesthood and I heard the quiet mumbling of the priest behind me, I realised that 'Oops clearly that was the bit I was supposed to leave out'.
My Uncle would have roared with laughter at me turning him into a priest at his funeral. He was a good man yes - but saintly? Ummm well NO ONE one in my family could ever claim to be saintly.
So I had my signs.
I asked and I believe I received and with that we said our goodbyes.
Now I have to give my family credit - the Irish in our blood ensures that no one dies without a few drinks being cheersed in their honour.
After the funeral we dutifully did our thing and gathered together at a pub that was once owned by our family - the Greengate Hotel at Killara.
There we sat and laughed and drank to happy times. And there I captured something special - my Dad and his one remaining sibling Jim, messing around like a couple of young hooligans. Pulling faces and laughing and doing EXACTLY what my own boys would have been doing had they been there.
Age and death doesn't have the power to break a sibling bond - life does though... if you let it.
As I looked across the table to my own brother, I made a promise to myself that one day when we are old and grey, I will ask our children to take a photo of us acting like two young hooligans, just like my Dad and his brother.
Until then, I hope to attend as few a funerals as I can possibly get away with and I will continue to look for signs from beyond.
Do you look for signs at funerals or after someone has died?