Friday, June 10, 2011

AM~Erica Goes to a Funeral

So anyway...

There is going to be a lot in this post, so bear with me.

For those of you who know what happened this last week, my family & I truly appreciate the prayers, thoughts, and words of encouragement. They have truly meant so much.

For those who are trying to figure out what the heck I'm talking about, I got word this past Sunday morning I got word from my mother that my grandmother, Connie Burr, passed away. The past several years have been rough as she developed Alzheimer's. It is a cruel & ugly disease! It is something that took a fabulously witty, intelligent & creative mind to leave a shell of a woman. It was very difficult for me when I had to be reintroduced to her about 3 years ago. By the time this was over, she wasn't recognizing her own 6 children. She left behind quite a legacy, for sure! And, what's even more amazing is how much she put her growing family first! I had a connection growing up with her as we both collected dolls. All kinds of them! I remember comparing them with her, or I would bring whatever new doll I got for Christmas over to her house to show her my new addition. She would take me to a room or to the attic to show my a doll she's had or one she'd just received. Many years ago, I made doll for her. I made a Martha Washington doll (at least in my head). I poked my fingers so often from the LARGE needle I used to attach the porcelain head, arms & legs to the soft, stuffed body; I got glue on my trying to make the doll wig stick; I completed her with, what I felt was, the perfect dress. My grandmother was quite a special woman, indeed! I even learned so much more about her when I read her obituary. What a remarkable woman! How sad how much of that left so long ago.

I am at peace with her passing. It was difficult to see her for the last time at Easter seeing what Alzheimer's had done to her. I know she is in a much better place. It will be hard dealing with the grieving process from my mom, my aunts & even my uncle. On big holidays, the family would gather together (6 siblings & spouses, 10 grandchildren & spouses, 23 great-grand children) for meals & company. It was always in her presence. And now it will be different without our matriarch. I miss her soft & raspy laugh, I miss her loving & ornery since of humor. But she celebrates now & awaits the rest of us to join her.

When I found out about her passing, my husband & I were at the Missouri United Methodist Annual Conference in Springfield, MO. I was keeping the news a little under wraps, not wanting to draw attention, especially since I was at peace. If you know me well, you will know that I have a thing for butterflies. They bring a spiritual sense to a situation & at least one seems to show up somehow when I need it most. I was speaking with a pastor at the conference, Angela Olsen, about a beautiful butterfly necklace around her neck. She did not know my situation, and she said to me, "Can I tell you my butterfly story?" Of course I welcomed it! It was a beautiful story filled with God's love & vision. I watched her get chills...and it gave me chills & hope. A spiritual butterfly showed up for me in that time. I tell you that story to move onto this story...

I was at my grandmother's visitation when one of my aunts began to tell a story about that Sunday morning after she received the new of her mother & a butterfly came & landed on her friend. It stayed & visited for a while. My aunt wanted to know why it landed on him if it was really her mother. She held out her finger & the butterfly went to her & stayed with her for quite some time. They walked around with it for a long time for a butterfly. Then she exclaimed that she knew it was her mother, because, you see, my grandmother loved butterflies. Every time my aunt saw a butterfly, she thought of my grandmother. Apparently, my grandmother's favorite song is called "The Lucid Butterfly". Interesting since everyone tried so hard to hang onto every lucid moment during her Alzheimer's. So I feel like my grandmother visited some of us maybe to let us know she is OK.

Now we move to the day of the funeral...
I put out some wording lately that was taken out of context...kind of. The pastor who gave the message & officiated the service is not Methodist. That's where I will choose to leave it. The family wanted my husband to speak in some capacity during the service, but was denied. The family was told that no one else could say anything until the body was committed to the ground at the gravesite. It would not have been a big deal if the message was that of comfort & love. Instead we got very little comfort from the pulpit that day. We were reminded about Adam & Eve and the original sin. I am unsure as to why that had to be brought up just to tell us that my 88-year-old grandmother died of sin. It was a horrible & awkward moment. It really was. He also spoke about he would visit with her, but that's where it should have stopped, because he added the words, "once a month". It sounded like it was something in his schedule that he had to do. Those three words could have been left out & it would have been much more personable...instead it sounded like a civic duty that he HAD to do. There was only a brief celebration-of-life moment when he compared to the shepherd by herding & caring for her family. That was it. The obituary was more of a full celebration of life than the entire funeral service. This was also a service that was promised a choir or song leading, and neither happened come time for the service. The family had hoped my hubby would give words at the graveside or give the blessing during the luncheon back at the church. These didn't happen either; it was my mother who offered extra words at the graveside since this pastor didn't open it up after the body's committal. When we got back to the church, the pastor is the one that took the blessing. The family was very disappointed & knew that my grandmother would have loved for my husband to have done or said something besides being a pall bearer.

I want all of the clergy out there to know that you do what you can to bring comfort to the family; make it a celebration of life instead of a full-on theological lesson. I am letting you know that the words spoken from that particular pulpit did NOT help! We were/are blessed to have each other as a family with lots of love & humor. All of that was so much more helpful in this case.

Once again, my family & I are so thankful for all of you who have given words of hope, been vessels of God's word knowingly or not, prayers & thoughts. It has meant a lot...and the grieving begins & the celebration of a beautiful life continues.

If you are still reading, thank you for sticking it out & let me get this out.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica