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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saying Good-bye ...

Aunt Mary's funeral was yesterday (see previous post here), and although there were plenty of tears, there were also some poignant, beautiful moments throughout the day.

One of the details we had been talking about as we prepared for her funeral, was who would speak at her funeral - who would deliver a eulogy and talk about Mary from the heart. Not all the factual details ... date of birth, date of marriage, who she was survived by ... but the personal details that made her who she was. The details we reflect on and talk about with each other.

I mentioned this to a friend at work, and knowing the special relationship Great Aunt Mary had with her great nieces, he suggested that maybe the girls should speak at her funeral. It was such an appropriate idea, so I asked the girls if they would be willing to do it.

Both of the girls were very nervous at first .. "You mean get up in front of everyone and talk?" Emme emphatically declined saying, "I won't be able to talk. I will only cry." But I could see Maea mulling the idea over, and the next day she said, "Mom, I think I can do it."

So Maea and I spent some time reflecting on her memories, and pretty soon, Emme was drawn in and we were all talking about the little details that made Mary so special to them.

Before the service started, we told the Pastor that Maea would like to get up and share some stories and memories. I'm sure he hesitated just a bit, wondering how an emotional 11 year old girl was going to be able to compose herself and speak in front of a small crowd.

Emme was crying quietly through the entire service. When Pastor Josh invited Maea to the podium, she squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, reached out her hand to me and said, "Mom I need you to come with me."

We walked to the podium, I adjusted the microphone for her, and in a very soft and serious voice, she calmly reflected on her memories of "Maena". (We all referred to Mary as "Maena" and many people had asked where that nickname had originated. Maea told the story of how when Emme was first learning to talk, she couldn't pronounce the "r" sound. So Mary became "Maena" and we all called her that ever since. Mary even signed her cards that way.) Her stories brought several laughs and nods from the audience as each one of us recognized the special and unique personality traits of Maena.

Pastor Josh also told some stories about "Maena" and commented on one of her most recognizable personality traits - her fierce independence and stubborness. He relayed a conversation he had with Mary as she first started attending his church, and she selected a specific chair in the back row. That became "her seat" where she sat for each service. One time she explained to him that she had a difficult time hearing him. So he suggested that she move to a more forward seat. She looked at him with surprise and explained that she would not be moving from her seat, that it was his job to speak louder!

At the end of the service, we shared a meal with friends and family, and then we followed the funeral coach all the way to Mankato, MN so Mary could be laid to rest beside her husband, Grant. It was a long and emotional day, and everyone fell into bed exhausted.

Except for Emme, who wasn't able to sleep when she remembered that Mary had asked her to have lunch with her a few weekends ago and Emme declined because she had some activities with her friends. She was regretting that missed opportunity and feeling so sad about not having lunch with her when she could have. She got more and more emotional, so I finally got in bed with her. We had a good talk about how short life can be, and how we need to take advantage of every chance we have to spend time with those we love the most. I ended up sleeping with her last night so she could finally stop sobbing and sleep.

And today is a new day.

It rained through the night, and although the sky is still overcast, the grass is more green today than it was yesterday.


alisa said...

So sorry for your family's loss (and I'm sorry I some how missed your 4.17 post about Mary). May God's grace and peace over-flow each of your hearts.

Team Dragovich said...

Karen... My love and prayers are for you and your family. It has been so many months since I have blogged or even checked in on my bloggy friends-- other than facebook. Somehow, blogging takes emotional energy. Why is that?

Your Mary sounds like an amazing and most wonderful woman!! She has been a sweet gift to your family as you have been to her!!

Be surrounded by the warm embrace of the Father as you walk through this season of grieving her loss, but rejoicing in her life.

Love to you,