My mother passed away a month and a half ago, a stroke at 69. My dad passed away 2 years ago at 89. Both very interesting people, neither wanted a church service, both just a short service at our local airfield, where after my brother and I scattered my dad’s ashes near the runway with a low-flight. For my mom we flew to Witsand, a half-hour away, scattering her ashes in the mouth of the Breede River. No frills, no fuss. That was how they wanted it.
My dad grew up with strange connotations to funerals. At his grandmother’s funeral his father stood afar, looking at all the people, telling my dad “ It’s a bloody circus, let’s go and have a fag”. My grandfather also refused to enter the church at his own wife’s funeral, seeing that all the family members who disliked his wife and treated him badly, were the main mourners. He stayed outside at the hearse.
My mom detested funerals with lots of flowers, purple ribbons, a photo of the deceased and messages of how much they loved the person. She made me promise – none of that! Many a funeral we would leave from and she would remind me to please adhere to her wishes, and so I did to the best of my ability. At her service I had a collage of photos of her with her grandkids, and of her laughing with a glass of Rose. My son read her favourite poem by William Wordsworth and we played Il Divo as the guests enjoyed a glass of wine to celebrate her life.
Not an easy task to adhere to a deceased’s wishes, for as my doctor and mentor stated: “Baby girl, people get funny when a loved one dies. You just stay grounded and centered in love”
And in all this, I have learned so many lessons. I have learned my own strength, as well as the fact that I do have immense respect for the deceased. I so strongly believe in respecting their wishes, that I did not go to a church service of an elderly friend of mine after he passed away a couple of years ago, merely for the fact that he didn’t want one - His wife and children felt it appropriate. I have also seen that in matters of “death” reactions of people have very little to do with the loved one, but mostly with themselves. How they cope, what they want, little messages and photos.
But then “To each his own.”
As for me, I wanted to be alone with my husband and children. Focusing on helping my children through their grief. Respecting my mother and my upbringing to the bitter end – she used to say: “ A Tomlinson (my maiden name) handles all things in life with dignity”. At Diana’s funeral, when my mom saw the 2 boys walking behind the coffin, with no emotion, she said:” That is royal! They handle their feelings themselves, it’s not for the world to see.”
And what I teach my children –
“Smile, though your heart is aching,
smile, even though it’s breaking,
although a tear maybe ever so near,
it’s the time you must keep on trying,
smile, what’s the use in crying,
you’ll see that life is still worthwhile
if you just smile”
Cheer’s Mom and Dad, you are an inspiration!