Funeral High Heels

I have struggled with writing recently because I feel so heavy with grief. Sounds cliche or weird but it’s true.

I could write about the law in Georgia but I literally can’t wrap my head around the fact that it is now reality and there are a population of women in Georgia who are having their rights to their own bodies stripped from them.

I could write about the two hours I spent at the AT&T store today to fix the mistakes made in a 45 minute phone call last week. Much of the time today was more pleasant discussing last nights episode of Game of Thrones with the sales guy. He predicts Danaerus will kill Jon Snow. I predict Arya will kill Danaerus and Sansa will end up queen with Jon Snow ruling the North. Tyrryon? Death. I’m just not sure how.

But it all falls flat because most of my thoughts have revolved around my Dad dying. Because before my Dad died my best friend’s Dad died in January. Then two weeks after my Dad died my business partner (and friend)’s Dad died suddenly. Everything bad happens in threes. I just didn’t know it would be three dead Fathers.

The last time I saw my best friend’s Dad was on Christmas Eve. The last time I saw my business partner’s Dad was at my Dad’s funeral. And the last time I saw my best friend’s mom was at her husbands funeral. Too many Dads. Too much death.

It makes me contemplate my own mortality; and that of every one elses. So you see why I haven’t written. My mind is in a dark place.

I asked my mom about the urn at some point, as my dad was cremated, and she told me that they wouldn’t have an urn. It would be a “biodegradable container” that would be buried on church grounds in their memorial garden. My sister and I sorta looked at each other, and didn’t say anything, well I think I repeated the “Biodegradable container” part because it sounded like we were talking about coffee grounds or something.

We had dinner with my cousin the night before and she was raised Catholic, and I preemptively told her about the container. She also took it in stride. Sorta. She in her Jersey way said, “A what? What?! Wait what?!” then asked why we weren’t scattering him somewhere and I had asked that very question, my Mom said they decided they didn’t want to do that because “We don’t want to blow all over each other if it’s windy.”

I mean it’s a fair point.

The day of the funeral it was raining. We walked outside with umbrellas with the pastor carrying a rather large nice looking biodegradable container. Without much preamble and with very little circumstance he tromped through some leaves and plopped it into the ground in a hole while we all stood watching and standing in the mud and rain.

My Dad could have asked us to do any number of things with his ashes. He chose to be buried anonymously as the grave is not marked, it is just a large memorial garden with a plaque when you first enter with the names of those who are buried there listed.

He picked this so I couldn’t say anything about it, though I did have many thoughts about it. The plopping of the container into the hole was a bit much for me, as I had only been to funerals when one was lowered slowly into the ground or at memorial services where we did not see the actual burial. But it was as my Dad wanted it to be.

He liked his pastor, and he wanted his family there, and as soon as he was in the ground by the church he loved; it stopped raining. My business partner, and my friend, told me much later that during the funeral her dad sang each song and each verse without ever looking at the hymnal, he knew them all.

She clung to him crying and she remembered thinking, “What you wouldn’t give to be able to hug your dad right now.” And she was right, but she also didn’t know until two weeks later how incredibly prophetic that thought was.

I didn’t truly break down until I saw my best friend’s Mom. I’ve known her since I was 14 and like I mentioned, the last time I saw her was at her husband’s funeral in January. It was all incredible heart breaking and like fate had dropped us all together all those years ago so we would all have each other during this horrific year of loss.

I don’t remember a lot of my dad’s funeral. I cried a lot and people spoke to me and I spoke to each person who came in uniform and thanked them for coming for my Dad. They were all extremely nice and so open about their memories of my Dad. I know I wore high heels that I love and a dress that will forever be my Dad’s funeral dress.

My Dad took many secrets to his grave and I thought when I was younger that I wanted to know them all. That I knew he had a past and that I knew he even had a past family. I wanted to know everything. But when he died I felt like everything that needed to be said had been. That I knew all I needed to know. That for 34 years he was obsessed with being my Dad and I will be forever grateful.

I realized the things I didn’t know I didn’t need to know because they weren’t important to our relationship. I always say actions speak. He gave me 34 years of actions that spoke of his love and dedication to me and my Mom and my sister and that’s all I needed.

Grief makes you think about everything past and present and future. I hope for a future without the weight of this grief. But I long for my past with my Dad.





How I Talked to my Three Year Olds About Death

My dad died last Saturday. He was ill for the last couple years, with a steady decline in the last six months. It was horrible for me to watch and even more horrible for me to contemplate explaining this to my sons.

Saturday came and he was on in-home hospice care. We brought the boys over and spent the day there. I do not regret this because the boys got to spend the day with our family and we all surrounded my dad with love the day he died. He even opened his eyes and smiled when Declan came in and said Hi Poppy when we arrived in the morning.

My boys are very intuitive and they knew Poppy was sick because he was laying in my parents bed, and not talking to them. They were timid at first being in the room, and then as the day progressed and they were outside running around with their cousin and we were all acting as normal as we could…they started running in and out of the room to check on Poppy.

Jackson left a purple flower on his bed.

Later in the evening they left and Jackson said “Good-bye Poppy” loudly.

About an hour later my dad died. I think he waited for them to leave.

Then we had to figure out how to tell our sons. Poppy was a constant fixture for them for three years, and toddlers have a concrete vision of our world.

Sidetrack: My cousin sent me what I refer to as “Death books” about three weeks before my dad passed. They are children’s books specific to speaking about death. I hadn’t looked at them yet because I wasn’t ready to and my wife and I joked about the “Death books” as they came prior to us coming to terms with the fact that he was dying. I pulled them out of the box and held one up and said, “Look babe, they got their first death books!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I finally visited the death books and talked to my sister and sister-in-law about how they talked to my niece. They used the heaven version and that she has guardian angels. The books did give me some good language to use and I agreed with the tactic of being concrete, not saying “he went to sleep and won’t wake up” because that seems like a set-up for a phobia of sleep.

We are not religious. But the heaven/sky/angel version of death is a positive one. I’m down with that. My wife came into my room the morning after Poppy died and told me she tried telling Declan about Poppy when he asked to go see him.

Declan came trotting in after her and said, “Poppy in the sky Mama?” So for lack of  a better explanation I said “Yes”. He’s in heaven which is I suppose in the sky. He accepted that and we moved on for the day.

Later in the evening though he and Jackson brought up Poppy, and Declan again asked about the sky. I told them that “Poppy’s body stopped working. He was very sick and sometimes when some one is older and sick their body stops working. So we would not be able to actually see Poppy or talk with him, but that he is watching over us all from Heaven.” I did use the term “died” at one point, I think later in the week.

They seemed to accept this. And since Saturday they’ve asked about it, and we’ve sat and talked, and I’ve cried and my wife has cried in front of them both, and we say, “We miss Poppy, and it makes us sad, and it’s okay if you are sad too.” And they generally give us hugs and move on.

Then today in the car Declan said, “Poppy’s body was hurting?” I said “Yes baby, he was hurting,” and then Jackson said, “We go see Poppy and Ba? I mean, we go see Ba? (Ba is Gramma)”. And I burst into tears. Because he gets it. He gets that he won’t see Poppy again. Then Declan asked me if my body was hurting, and I said “No baby, and Mommy’s isn’t either.”

Gramma came over last night, and they told her Poppy was in the sky, and she agreed. Her being here alone I think cemented it for them that we wouldn’t see Poppy again.

Grief is heavy. So heavy it feels like a weighted blanket on top of me all the time. But to grieve and have small children is awful. They rip off the band-aid every time it starts to stick a little. They don’t mean to, but they randomly bring up Poppy and they catch me off guard and it’s like a knife to the heart every time.

I’m glad that they understand and I feel like we have a parenting win with this whole explaining death thing to two toddlers. But as a daughter who lost her Dad, it’s incredibly painful. Because when they ask about Poppy I’m supposed to be a strong Mama, when really I just want to be a daughter crippled with grief. But I can’t be.

This is the stuff no one tells you about parenting. My heart goes out to any parent who has lost a loved one who has small children because to keep showing up as a parent in these dark days is the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.