Monday, April 20, 2009

A funeral

Thursday morning, I was at my desk at work when my phone rang. The call display showed FIL's number.

I totally froze. My in-laws NEVER call me at work. I knew they were not just calling to say hello.

I did not want to pick up the phone.

But I knew I had to be a grownup. I steeled myself for whatever was about to come, & picked up the phone.

It was stepMIL -- and, as I had feared, it was bad news -- although not the news I had most dreaded. She was calling to tell me that one of dh's aunts had passed away. (SIL had given her my number; she didn't have dh's.) So I had the sad duty of calling my husband to tell him his aunt had died -- the first one of his father's siblings to pass away.

His aunt, not quite two years younger than FIL (who is the eldest of the 7 sibilings -- all but two now living in Canada) had not been entirely well. Alzheimer's disease has robbed her memory these last several years, to the point that she knew none of us anymore, but she actually died of a heart attack.

Visitation was Sunday, & the funeral was today. Dh & I had a volunteer meeting for our support group during the day, so we went in the evening. Even though I was among friends, & other bereaved mothers, I found my throat constricting during our volunteer meeting (hours after I'd had breakfast). Anxiety rearing its ugly, irrational head again. : ( On the bright side, I made it through lunch (a salmon salad sandwich with some cantaloupe & pineapple slices) without incident. Got through the funeral home visit OK, but felt a brief bit of anxiety again toward the end of our visit.

Woke up at 3 a.m. & couldn't get back to sleep. I finally figured out that there were two things that were bothering me. First, one of dh's cousins had remarked that Aunt's blood pressure the previous day had been unusually high -- 170/110 -- & the dr was to visit her to adjust her medication. (My own blood pressure, of course, has spiked at almost that level recently, albeit in the throes of a food reaction/anxiety attack.)

The second? Aunt was wearing her glasses in her casket. I had smiled & remarked to dh that I was glad they did that, because it made Aunt look more like herself. I recalled that my grandmother also wore her glasses in her casket. Illness had changed her appearance so much that, if it weren't for the glasses, she would have been totally unrecognizable to me. That got me thinking about my grandmother, & how much I still miss her, almost 10 years later. And that got me sobbing.

Finally drifted off to sleep again for a few more hours before we got up & got ready for the funeral. It was a Catholic mass, of course. Several of dh's cousins had brought their small children along (everyone in the family who could babysit was all there), including one sweet baby girl, born last November -- almost 10 years to the day from Katie's due date.

That alone might have been bearable -- but then the priest launched into his homily -- an ode to Aunt, & her devotion to motherhood & grandmotherhood. Really, what more could be said about Aunt? She did not work, certainly not after she had her children. When I first met her, some 25 years after her arrival in Canada, she still could barely speak English. Her family was her life.

The priest went on & on, extolling the virtues & the rewards of motherhood. He talked about the pains that mothers go through during delivery (like he knows??). "But the moment she hears her baby cry, the pain is all worth it."

Yes, I thought, but what about those of us who get to go through labour without hearing that cry at the end of it all? And those who never get to be pregnant at all, try as they might?

And then I remembered how, shortly after Katie's stillbirth, dh & I had gone over to FIL's house, & Aunt & Uncle had been there. Some brief condolences were exchanged. Aunt said something to dh in Italian & I saw his expression change. "Really??" he said.

He turned to me: "It happened to her, too." He asked her a question in Italian, & she responded, her eyes cast down at the table. "Seven months," he said to me. "I had no idea."

I touched Aunt's arm. "Girl or boy?" I said. "A little girl," she whispered, with pain in her eyes, & then shook her head, lips set together.

So before Aunt knew the joy of a baby's cry, she too also knew the wrenching sorrow of a silent delivery room. I thought of that, & of that nameless (to me, anyway), forgotten baby girl, as the priest talked.

I hope wherever they both are now, they have found each other at last.


  1. This made me cry. I don't know what else to say. Peace.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I know that people are connected in ways they never truly appreciate, even it's through grief.

  3. h, loribeth.... I wish I can give you a big, big ((hugs)) now. I am so sorry, for everything.
    This is such a beautiful post, in he most heart-breaking way.
    Thinking of you. xo

  4. This made me cry too. So sad, yet so happy at the same time.

  5. You brought tears to my eyes. Everyone extols the pretty, ruffly side of the whole shebang, but never mentions the heartaches so many women endure.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Wow.

    1) I hate those calls in the middle of the night/at work. You're right, it's never ever good news.

    2) Seriously, WTF is up with that priest??!! Talk about a blown metaphor.

    3) Funerals are odd. They stir up so much other junk, much more than the grief right at hand. And they're also interesting confluences of family that you might not otherwise get. (People are way more out about talking about deadbabies at funerals than at weddings, right?) I'm glad you made that connection, and the same goes for her, too.

    Wonderful post.

  7. This breaks my heart, the heartache and grief that unexpectedly connects people.

  8. I don't know why it touched me so, but I cried and cried reading this. I am so sorry for your loss, the only silver lining being that you have touched someone else so greatly with the story.

  9. Oh, Loribeth. This made me cry, too. I'm so sorry for your and DH's loss. And I hope that Aunt and her first daughter are together, too - the image of that is so beautiful and so heart-breaking at the same time.

  10. I'm with Mel. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  11. what a beautful post! I'm trying so hard not to break down into sobs, since I'm at work, but it's a struggle. thank you for sharing.

  12. Thoughtful post. Its interesting how a funeral can reflect back upon the living. I am sorry for your loss.

  13. Wow, that was beautiful. Thank you.

  14. Wow, this was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  15. I'm crying my eyes out. What a beautiful, sad post.

  16. I love the idea of a long-awaited reunion in Eternity.

    Beautiful, LoriBeth.

  17. Beautiful. Just beautiful. There's a lump in my throat.

  18. I have found out about many women who had still birth and late term losses. These things simply weren't and probably still aren't talked about. It's nice you found someone who truly understands your pain.
    I think we talked before about your husband being Italian. I speak Italian as well. It is a beautiful language and culture. I'm Irish- go figure.

  19. Thank you for this beautiful, moving post. I am sorry for your loss and grateful to you for your post.

  20. That's a lovely post. The fact they put the glasses on made me recall a memory that made me smile, too. I had a great-aunt that always, always, always had lipstick on. Even when she was sick and in the hospital, she had perfect lipstick on. After she died, it made me so happy the day of her service to see that someone had made sure she had perfect lipstick, because it was so totally her.

    I'm sorry that you have lost Aunt.

  21. I'm so sorry about your Aunt. And yes, I do believe that she is with her baby.

  22. What a stirring, loved filled piece. Your aunt sounds like a beautiful, tender lady. I hope she has found her baby girl and that they both have found peace together.
    I'm so sorry it all brought such sadness to your heart. I wish there were words someone could say to the mothers who never get to hear the cry, but I know there never will be.
    Thinking of you and Katie.

  23. There are some experiences in our lives that will always be fresh and raw. Glad you had a chance to connect so deeply...

  24. Loribeth, such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

  25. thank you for sharing that paint such a vivid picture, that i can literally see your aunt speaking italian and trying not to sorry for your losses.

  26. This whole post, especially the last line, made me weep. Thank you for writing it.


  27. I am very behind on my blog reading from being out of town for a week.

    This post was so poetic.

  28. Oh, what a beautiful post.

    This is the first time post from a lurker - childless recurrent miscarrier. Your blog and your wisdom have helped me so much. Thank you.

  29. Chiming in late to agree that this is a lovely post, and to offer my sympathies on your loss. She sounds like a wonderful woman.

    (I read an obit yesterday that began, "The world lost a very neat lady on [date]." I liked it a lot.)