Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The funeral revisited

English: Comfort in Grief
Image via Wikipedia

She sat at the front of the church with her mother.
Swathed by relatives.
Confused between the false smiles of mourners  when they spoke to her and the shaking sobs of her mother in the seat next to her.
I watched as this little girl, dressed in pink tulle looked into the faces of everyone who came near her.
Watching as her mother, grandmother and aunties dissolved into tears before her, and her cousins displayed emotions ranging from nervous frivolity, to shock, to grief as they watched their mother's cry their way through their eulogies.
No doubt, wondering where her father was and exactly what was happening around her.

I looked into her five-year-old face from a distance.  Willing her to see me.  So she would know I was there.... that her teacher had come to her father's funeral....because I know how much it will mean to her later.


I went to the funeral of the father of my tiny year 1 student last week.....exactly 1 year, 11 months and 29 days after the kids and I sat huddled in the same position under similar circumstances: a car accident; a  father suddenly gone.

I remembered holding the hands of our children who had that same bewildered look on their little faces..... my son even younger than this little girl, my daughter only 1 year older.
I remembered smiling through the memories of his life as they played on the screen before us and wishing we'd taken more photos of each other.
I remembered trudging behind the casket as we followed six of his best mates out of the church, his body held shoulder high.
I remembered staring at my feet as they walked out of the church and watching as the casket was loaded into the hearse, not glancing up lest I see the faces of the hundreds of people who came.

....and I remembered how thankful my children were that their teachers had come to their Daddy's funeral.  Teachers who would soon become my colleagues and help hold me together as I began working again.  Teachers who would hold my kids together when they were angry at the world, and teacher who pushed them into learning and achieving.

...and I made a silent vow to this dead father whom I'd never met: I promise to look after your daughter to the best of my ability.  I promise to show her compassion when she needs it and I promise to push her forward and onward. I promise to be there for her for as long as she needs.

I promise.

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  1. Amanda, I applaud you for finding it in you to be there for that little girl at her Dad's funeral, a place/event which is so difficult to return to when it stings with your own memories. I cried when I read it because you are exactly right, that children DO remember who came to their parent's funeral for them. My son was four when I lost my husband unexpectedly 9 months ago and he remembers all of his preschool teachers who came for him that day. We are so fortunate to have wonderful teachers in my son's school who have the same attitude as you about propelling the children foward. I actually had to write a note to his teacher this week because he wants to talk about his Dad and dying now. On Sunday the Sunday school teacher shut him down completely about the conversation and took him out of the classroom. He felt like he was in trouble for talking about his father's death. I had to explain adults can be weird :) I reassured him he did nothing wrong, then wrote a note to his teacher at school in case he was also talking about his father there. She wrote me a wonderful note back that my son started talking about his father last week at school and they are completely encouraging it. So, thank you for being one of THOSE kinds of teachers, who encourage the growth of children and are there for them when they are working their way through their confusion and memories, at their pace.

  2. Amanda, you rock in your zest to take this fatherless child under your protective wings and yet push her on to accomplish great things! And you will, cause you unfortunately can!

    Also, I can so relate to avoiding eye contact at the funeral. I remember just two years ago today burying my husband and keeping my eyes down not wanting to encounter any looks of pity and pain. I also thought if I made eye contact with anyone, then the funeral would be real and I was most definitely in denial. How strange.

    Thank you!!!!

  3. man - this just brought - my? his? own funeral rushing back at me.

  4. Oh yes, kids remember. My son was 17 when his Dad died, and not one teacher from his school came. He searched long and hard among all the people at the funeral, you know. I knew how disappointed he was, and made a point of going to visit the head teacher later, and I asked why? Why did no-one come? She had no answer. I told her how hurt he was, and she promised that they would never make that mistake again. The irony is that it was a church school. And my son never once mentioned his father's death at school - not to the pupils, and not to the staff. They knew, but they didn't talk to him about it. What seems such a small thing to those not in this position is in reality a HUGE thing. So I am so proud of you, and so thankful that that little child has you watching out for her.

    1. This is a great post about awareness. I find it bringing up feelings of anger in me, though. Anger both as one who has been widowed and also lost my father when I was nine, I am angry and tired of our society being so weird about death. I hate the look people get on their faces if you mention your lost loved one. Like they never existed. People who have experienced loss feel badly enough, they don't need people looking at them like they have two heads and going silent at the mention of the lost ones' name. We want to talk about our loved ones, they are part of us, and it helps us process our loss. It's like some stigma if you've lost someone, and it shouldn't be. Especially as a child, one is confused and trying to make sense of it all, and having the adults around you acting weird about it makes you feel even weirder, like there is something wrong with you or your family. Ugh. I doubt it will ever change. Good for you to commit to this little one, she will need someone who understands and allows her to talk about it without feeling like the odd man out.

  5. I am a new widow but just also lost my mom at eighteen. My father was alcoholic and i felt very responsible for my two little brothers, ten and eleven. Teachers played a really important part in my life. I remember my journalism teaching, who had lost his wife, passing me little recipes and always asking how I was doing. That was over forty years ago and it is still a very important memory. I was so touched that someone in my life would care so much.

  6. I don't know what to say. This is definitely one of the better blogs Ive read. You're so insightful, have so much real stuff to bring to the table. I hope that more people read this and get what I got from it: chills. Great job and great blog. I cant wait to read more, keep em comin!