Yesterday, I found out I’m not as strong as I thought I was. Yesterday, I went to a funeral.
I wouldn’t have missed it however. I wanted to be there for my friend Sally who is like a sister to me. We’ve been besties for over thirty years. We grew up together in a small country town. Shared scraped knees, secrets and have laughed until we’ve nearly wet our pants...she’s THAT kinda friend.
We were housemates for five years, were like the bobbsie twins! Inseparable….knowing what the other was thinking… sharing heartache over boys and holidaying together. I know her like I know Dempsey.
Sal is a special girl, with a generous soul…..an amazing human being! Selfless and funny, with one of those laughs that makes you laugh when you hear it.
Every week when Savannah was sick, Sal packaged up something for her and sent it. Sometimes a book, or a Winnie the Pooh face washer, butterfly mobile or a teddy bear hot water bottle……every single week, a package arrived in our letter box in the USA from Sal in Australia! She will never know the absolute joy she gave Savannah when the big parcels arrived and I’ll never be able to repay her for that.
When Sal rang to say her sister Ann-Maree had died last week, I had to go for her!
Ann-Maree had cancer, she left an adoring husband, a son, a daughter and three grandchildren……….she was 56!
On average, I get to see Sal every four years, so this opportunity to support HER for once was a no brainer…..I was going.
The church in Melbourne was steel-grey, the courtyard shadowed not just from the mid morning sun, but from the many mourners who flocked there, dressed in their best black outfits. Groups huddled together, whispering and offering comfort to each other. I didn’t know anyone, just Sal and her family who I grew up with.
Then we spotted each other, and like long lost buddies do, we hugged until the air was squeezed out of both of us……”No tears Dee! No tears!” My friend said…..
After swapping laughter, I finally let go of her hand and watched her trail behind her brothers and sisters slowly up the steps into the church.
I took a deep breathe in and followed her.…
A coffin at the entrance to an alter…is there anything more symbolic to remind you to appreciate life?
The church was filled with the hush of mourners and sniffles and faces trying to be brave. Filtering in from outside was the muffled laughter of children, alive, from the neighboring school, playing during their recess break.
And it was during the touching eulogy Ann-Maree’s husband Mark gave I started to unravel. Below is the poem he read.........
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come backOr you can open your eyes and see all that she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she’s gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on......Anonomous
My knuckles were white from holding the pew in front of me, and I tried my best not to unleash my tears by tying knots in my pink scarf. It didn’t work! Memories of Tarnia and Mum and Savannah’s funeral caved in on me. I wanted to flee but felt trapped. And I learnt in that moment, that I shouldn’t do funerals! I’m simply not strong enough yet.
But Friday wasn’t about me; it was about Sal, and celebrating Ann-Maree’s life!
After the touching service, in the courtyard the wind was howling, blowing dresses and tangling hair and sending a message to me, reminding me to breathe. Sal found me and we cried, I hugged her tight, told her I loved her and that I would see her at the Wake.
But sometimes when you are overcome with grief, you have to do what you have to do. I staggered to the safety of my car in my six inch stilettos, slammed the door and collapsed in tears. I couldn’t go to the Wake, I wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t face everyone…...Sal!
Weak I know.
I started the car engine, grabbed some tissues and drove the two hours home……