Wednesday 8 April 2015. The day of my husband’s funeral. I see the faces we’d seen 15 months prior at our wedding. Friends, cousins, aunts, great uncles and more friends of those. Dear friends with babes in arms.
We were about 120 Patsy told me later. I only remembered inviting 80. But I knew it was going to be hard to keep the funeral private.
We made it through the funeral relatively unscathed, just more red-eyed and weaker than ever. I sat between Michael’s dad and aunt, the three of us a newly formed little fortress of grief, love and support after getting though ICU and the aftermath together.
I had written a speech. I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to say a word. But then I watched his aunt give the most amazing eulogy. Full of childhood stories, she painted a picture of a man even larger than the one I loved. I don’t know how she had the strength to do it, to stand up facing her own siblings and children, remaining nephews.
My turn. Shit.
A sea of faces. People standing at the back. I just had to get through it without looking at Michael’s dad or my parents or the coffin or I’d lose it. Afterwards I felt like all my insides had been scraped out with a spoon.
As we followed the coffin outside I found myself beside Michael’s best friend. We clung to each other as it was loaded into the hearse.
We lined the road as the hearse passed but as the long vehicle turned the curve of the road, its side came closer and closer to us until we stepped backwards on tiptoes on the kerb and almost went tits up into the flower beds! In the madness of it all we burst out laughing and felt immediately terrible about doing so. But we knew that Michael would be wetting his pants laughing at us too.
I raced to the reception room to have a sip of water and a wee quickly before seeing and chatting with everyone. I gulped down a glass of water and told my dad I was off to the loo, handing him my handbag; cue usual dad joke about how nice he thinks he looks holding it.
Turned around and opened the door to see everyone stretched out down the path walking over from the chapel room… They see me, I see them, the toilets are past them all, around the corner. Fuck.
This resulted in a 30 minute stand up wedding-style reception greeting line ack! How could I say no to hug and kiss each of the sad, caring, expectant faces, all in pain of their own?!
At some point in the line, Patsy and her sidekick interrupted to hand me the USB recording of the funeral service, a headcount and a bizarre “posy” of flowers that matched those that I had chosen for Michael’s coffin. Wow so today we match, at least! I can wander around clutching my chic funeral posy and people can complement me on it to break the ice!
When I finally got to the toilet my bladder was the size of a cantaloupe. I was in sooooooo much pain!
Maybe I should write some, “Tips for young widows,” I thought, as I sat on the loo:
Number 1: there’s a reason why you see the grieving family walking behind a hearse/coffin in the movies. Make sure you walk behind it. DO NOT attempt to wait on the side of the road and touch the window as it passes to avoid ending up tits up in the flower beds and flashing your knickers at the entire crematorium.
Number 2: At all funeral events, make sure you have EASY ACCESS to a bathroom or a few friends who are tipped off to help you get to it through the crowds.
Cold tea and a few crumbs back at the reception. Oh well. At least I could eat some of his favourite BBQ Shapes that Jules and I had brought!
Oh hang on. The tea lady is giving me a row for, “bringing my own catering” and wants me to sign something to charge me extra. WTF? Where are those funeral organiser people when you need them? Oh yes that’s it. Patsy and her mate left me at the lineup with my posy.
Number 3: put someone else in charge of catering at the funeral to avoid hassle from officious tea ladies.
Number 4: no matter how hard, painful, upsetting or surreal the day of your husband’s funeral is, you can do it.