I put this off for a long time. I got through the first two and realized I still had to write this and I straight up didn’t want to. Why? Because honestly through this whole process this day was the worst of them all. Let’s just get into it then. It’s long… sorry again.
I woke up on Saturday morning feeling pretty good. I was coming off the wake and as I explained before that really hadn’t gone as horribly as I had expected. If anything being surrounded by so many people who had fond memories of my dad made the experience much easier. I think I woke up feeling optimistic that maybe, by some grace of God, the funeral wouldn’t be too horrible either.
My dad was buried in the Catholic church so before we even got there we had a quick prayer service in the chapel of the funeral home. I sat in the front with my mom and Zack and watched as friends, family, neighbors, whoever came and passed the coffin one by one. This broke me… no this killed me. It was so unbelievably sad to watch people say goodbye one last time. I honestly don’t know who thought of this as being standard operating procedure because really it’s just cruel. Sure let’s sit the grieving family right up front to watch people one by one sob their way up to the coffin to give their respects. I guess you don’t know how awful that moment will be until you’re in it so consider that your warning.
We left the funeral home and went into the procession to make our final trip past the house with my dad. It was a miserably grey day which only added to the somberness. However, because I live in an amazing world where amazing people exist, I was allowed one bright moment on an otherwise terrible day. My dad’s favorite movie was the Wizard of Oz. He had all the quotes down and would perform them regularly (his favorite being the Cowardly Lion’s “Courage” speech). My neighbors are an unusual bunch meaning we’re so close that a lot of us keep better in touch with them than our own blood relatives. My dad’s death really shook the block to it’s core so they came together quickly with this idea. As we approached the block I was the first to notice some brightly colored ribbons tied to the stop sign on the corner. Then the house next to it has some tied to the trees and the house across the street did as well. It didn’t take us long to realize that the neighbors had made a rainbow on our block. It was the most touched I’ve been in my entire life.
Coming off two incredibly emotional moments we finally made it to the church. I was already too emotionally drained at this point so I knew this was going to be a bumpy ride. 3 of my friends were paul bearers for my dad. They were his sons. I remember watching them take the casket out of the car and seeing them have to lift him up. It was surreal… how was I even living this right now?
Not to be too obvious but the sentimental feelings you’ve been harboring for days all seem to come to light on the day of the funeral. Walking into the church I kept thinking about how it was the church that I was baptized in, made my communion in, and graduated in and they were all major events that he’d be there for. It’s the church I’ll more than likely get married in. It will be the wedding that my dad won’t be there for… and there I was walking down the aisle with him.
A huge group of my friends sat only a few rows behind us so when we got to the front I caught all of their eyes. They had the saddest most defeated eyes I’ve ever seen and I’m sure I wasn’t looking much better to them. I remember looking at my friend Mara and for some reason just seeing her made me lose it even more. Honestly I’m sure looking at any of them directly would have had the same affect but she was the lucky one. I just remember thinking that this seriously couldn’t be real. My friends and I get together to drink on the Mississippi and sing karaoke. We didn’t get together to bury someone’s dad. How was that someone me? How did I get so lucky that all these people drove and flew in from all over the place to be there for me? How was this even my life?
The funeral seemed to take forever and no time at all. I honestly don’t remember a lot besides the priest reading my mom’s letter to him as the homily and my dad’s best friends eulogy. He did an amazing job considering only a day or so before he said he wasn’t going to do it.
Now… this is the only funny part of this story and I’m thankful every day that we at least got this one little break. As I mentioned before, my dad’s favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz. He had one wish (that he had expressed to us on more than one occasion) that at his funeral he would like to exit the church to the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” My friend from gradeschool was kind enough to play the music for the mass and since we knew him he was able to sneak the song in after one verse of some secular music. We thought this would be a beautiful tribute to my dad… until it actually started playing. I was walking in front of my mom with Zack and as soon as those notes started to play I began to hyperventilate. I just couldn’t wait to get out of the church and away from that song- it was too much for me. However I failed to notice that as I was trying to get out of the church I had lost my mother somewhere along the way. When the music started to play she froze. She grabbed onto the closest thing to her and melted down. Zack and I walked back to get her and move her out of the church when she started.. “THIS WAS A MISTAKE… THIS WAS A STUPID IDEA. I’M A STUPID BITCH. I’M A STUPID STUPID BITCH. YEAH NICE JOB JULIE PLAY THE STUPID SONG!” Yes, picture it. I’m dragging my mother out of the church as she’s yelling and cursing herself silly. Talk about an exit.
The rest of the funeral day will leave you numb. None of it really matters after that. I just couldn’t be bothered with being overly observant. We had a nice luncheon and my dad’s club was kind enough to host an after the luncheon party (because we’re the kind of people that throw a funeral after party). They had food and beer and I got pretty decently drunk. We gambled and shared stories and they set up my dad’s seat as a somewhat memorial to him.
It was a great send off but I would be lying if I said I really remembered much else about it. I was in a haze. I was just tired. It was as if the last 3 months had finally caught up to me and all I wanted in that moment was to go to sleep and to wake up feeling somewhat normal again. The truth is I’d never feel normal again.
I still struggle a lot. I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it with people. I still feel like everyone is just waiting for me to move on. I still can’t delete his contact in my phone. I still get that moment of “I have to tell my dad this” only to remember that I can’t. I still have dreams where he just comes back to life and we all just go one like nothing happened. I still cry when I write in this blog.
The funeral really never ends unfortunately.