In my last post I stopped just short of really getting into what the wake is like. This post won’t be horribly long… which is comical considering how long that day actually was. Like I mentioned previously, my dad’s wake was scheduled from 2p-9p on the Friday after he died. After my mom and I were done being alone with my dad the rest of the family came in. Some had a lot of trouble… especially the out of state cousins who hadn’t seen him in a while. I had made a video with pictures a quick clips of my dad over the years that everyone seemed to enjoy. We all sat for about 30 minutes watching the video and gabbing until everything started. It was the calm before the storm.
People started coming in right at 2:00 p.m. and it got progressively more steady as the day went on. By 6:00 p.m. you could barely move in that room. My friends kept coming up and asking if I needed any food or drinks but honestly I had no appetite. If you’re lucky enough to have friends like mine (I mean my God my friend Katie flew in from Seattle to be there) you won’t have to worry about much while you’re standing up there. Even though wakes can get pretty busy there are moments where you become extremely self aware. It didn’t take me long to realize that for the most part it was just my mom and I standing there. In those moments I felt the most alone. Even when I was talking to people I couldn’t shake the idea that the number of my family dropped from an already small three to an even smaller two and that one day I’d be the saddest little number one standing up there.
One thing that really surprised me is that I didn’t cry. Not once while I was standing up there did I shed a tear. Yes- my eyes from time to time found themselves welling up but I didn’t allow any to fall. There were already too many people grieving and like I said before I needed to be strong for them. In my opinion a wake is a total role reversal for the family. It was our responsibility to comfort everyone else now. There was a few people I prepared myself for though… just in case. My mom warned me that when her mom passed there were certain people she saw that made her lose it. For me, I thought it might be my “Auntie” Karen… my dad’s long time secretary. As you can tell we became so close that she got the title of “Aunt”. When my dad was diagnosed she was totally devastated and every time she would call to check in I could hear her holding back tears on the other side of the phone. So, I prepared myself to see her and it worked. I made it through without totally losing it. Do your best to prepare yourself for those people.
I say “do your best” because there are a few randoms in there that will throw you off your guard. A girl I went to grade school with and hadn’t hung out with since probably high school came and totally lost it when my mom reminded her of the nick name my dad gave her. My cousin’s wife who, for the most part, keeps to herself was swimming in tears when she made it up to my mom and I. Friends I hadn’t seen in years came and their thoughtfulness touched me so much that I nearly broke down with each new person. Those are the worst moments because they are the ones you don’t expect.
I can’t say this enough- these experiences will be different from person to person. What worked for me might not work for you but if I can give any advice it’s this… save your strength for the wake. Be the most powerful and strong person you can be on that day. Try to not spend the day crying… it’s exhausting and it will leave you and others emotionally drained. Be strong for everyone else because the wake is really their time to say goodbye. The funeral is yours and dammit… the funeral is rough.