Tag Archives: mourning

Pre and Post Funeral Thoughts

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Pre-Funeral Thoughts

My father died and I’ve only told three people. I didn’t take off work. I didn’t even cry, although I’ve cried over plenty of other things recently (e.g. This Is Us, my ex-boyfriend, a coworker) and I’m sure this incident found a way to sneak in a tear or two while it had the chance.

It’s so strange losing someone who was an equally imperative and meaningless part of your life—I, at first, doubted that it was possible to mourn someone I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. I have a dad and he’s alive and well, probably working in his woodshop right now. This man who died is basically responsible for creating me, but not raising me, not loving me, not knowing me in any way. How insane is that? To create someone but never know them? I can’t even abandon a book, old shoes, or ancient Tupperware.

My mom said, “I’ll always have love for him because he gave me the greatest gift of my life—you.” And it’s funny because that’s how I’ve always felt about him. I’m only grateful that he gave me her. That’s all he’s ever been for me; he made it possible for me to live, and for me to be her daughter.

I wrote a poem back in October, when I first learned he was sick. Back when I asked my grandfather to keep me updated, but instead, I got a text in January that just read: “Robert Mendez memorial service” with a date, time, and place.

You kissed a pretty blonde cheerleader other side of the tracks type once
and probably thought nothing of it
thought nothing of the few years from then wedding,
the one her dad almost didn’t go to because of your last name
the same last name you’d give to a little baby girl
first name some Tejano singer from the station where you spent all your time
drinking and snorting away the reality that you were a husband and a father
not anything special
but you could’ve been special in the way the best people are
//
You probably couldn’t see all of this, right?
Back when you were in love and making a room laugh and playing piano
I guess you couldn’t see how your brother may have chosen to end his life
but so did you
long, drawn out, choosing to disappear
until you were dying in a hospital room
//
You want me to give some bedside eulogy while your body turns against you
but you died so long ago
I’m so confused
My funeral speech accolades about you were embedded in my
high school, bachelors, and masters diplomas, my book, my passport stamps—
everywhere that last name is inked
Everything good I’ve ever done is tainted by the tiniest truth
that I’m always proving what I can accomplish
without you
despite you
//
Even worse, everything bad that’s ever happened—
every terrible relationship choice
every panic attack
every depression
every over-analytical-anxiety-filled  am I good enough?
Everything can be sourly linked to you
//
So you see?
You’ve been here all along
in every achievement
every mishap
I wrote this all on your tombstone
sang these lyrics at your grave
I’ve said goodbye
and don’t know if I want to say it again

 

 

Post-Funeral Thoughts

PSA to every parent that could potentially be reading this: when you die, what do you want to be said at your funeral? I listened to an hour full of Bible verses and rosary repetition at my father’s funeral. There was nothing said about his life because I guess there was nothing to say.

You don’t have to be the richest or the smartest, you don’t have to climb Everest or invent a Shark Tank phenomenon, you don’t have to be the founder of a company, you don’t have to cure a disease…life is so meaningless unless you spread kindness, unless you love and are loved, unless you are remembered…

Hardly any people came to my father’s funeral. Most people who did show up were there to support my grandparents, one who doesn’t remember who I am and one who disowned me when I asked my dad to adopt me a couple years ago. Uncomfortable doesn’t really quite explain how I felt, sitting in the back of a near-empty funeral home room, seeing framed photos of a man who I vaguely resemble. Depressed, angry, annoyed, disgusted—there’s not one adjective that I could pin down and actually FEEL. I’ve never wanted to be in a room less, and that made me feel sad for him. And for my grandparents. It must be heartbreaking to outlive your children. Even more heartbreaking I suppose for there to be nothing to say at their funeral.

I guess that’s what I felt: sad. What most people feel at funerals, but a completely different kind of sadness really. I’m not sad that he’s gone—I’m sad that he’s always been gone. I’m not really sad for my loss—I’m sad for his.

Grandma’s Hairspray

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I don’t really use hairspray anymore, and it’s not because I don’t like it or need it. I choose to curl my hair and have it fall flat, frizzing pitifully in the Texas humidity.

The reason? I don’t want to throw away my hairspray–my grandma’s hairspray.

After her funeral two years ago, my family was handing out random items from cabinets–“Which teapot do you want? Which porcelain figurine?” I know they had good intentions–they wanted us all to have a memory or two to take home. But I just felt so weird about it all. I wanted to go home, away from my family and away from all the teapots. My mom gently said something like, “Alysha, there must be something you want to remember Grandma. C’mon, just pick something.”

I asked if I could have her hairspray. We were standing by the restroom, I looked and saw it, remembered mine had run out recently. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Mom laughed and handed it to me.

That was two years ago…and the silver bottle is still sitting next to my sink. I use it sometimes, but never too much, and I always get anxiety afterwards that I used too much, that I’m going to run out soon.

Because I mean…what will I do? Throw it out?! I’ll feel like I’m throwing out my grandma! A freakin’ hairspray bottle has become a weird version of an urn.

The truth is, every time I see it, smell it, feel it in my hair–I remember her wispy white curls and salmon dress pants and funny little British laugh. I miss her cooking and I miss her calling me “my dear” and I miss sitting in her kitchen on those awful wooden chairs telling her about my day.

I can’t throw away the hairspray, because it’ll be like Uncle Chuck’s salsa all over again. I kept the most giant jar of Uncle Chuck’s homemade salsa in my fridge for SO long after he passed away. I couldn’t even open it–the seal seemed to be intensely fused on. I finally made myself throw it away and have regretted it ever since. I miss seeing it every time I open my fridge.

It makes you wonder what weird items people would take from your place if they had the chance–to remember you by. Does anyone care at all about my favorite yellow cup? My wacky paintings, dusty books, giant seashell? Will anyone want my grandma’s teapot that’s on my stove or her porcelain figurine that’s on my writing desk?

This Is Where I Leave You: Not even close to a review

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Have you seen the trailer for This Is Where I Leave You? It looks phenomenal; I can’t wait to see it. I also just found out that it’s a BOOK. So now I of course want to read it first. I think the reason I can’t stop watching the trailer is because of the symmetry I feel it has to my life right now. A monarch of the family passes away and brings the family together. They are a crazy family to say the least. Spending that much time together is like torture. Yup. And then of course there’s the line that we can all relate to: “Is it the whole world or is it just this family?”

I hope it’s the whole world.

I’ve lost two people this year—my amazing Uncle Chuck and my lovely grandmother. It’s strange to me that there are so many different reactions to death. Funerals seem to bring out the best and worst in some people. And I guess that makes sense when you think about it.

I find myself NEEDING to write about it—not to vent, not to talk shit, not to complain or whine or bitch or moan or whatever—but this is MY way. This is what I do. I think that’s clear to my friends and family by now, that I write (about everything). If they haven’t figured that out, I’m not sure what more I can do…I’ve already published a freakin’ novel.

In This Is Where I Leave You, in true movie fashion, the family comes together even though they’re insanely different and maybe-kinda-sorta hate each other at times. Tina Fey’s character puts it perfectly when she says, “You guys are idiots, but you’re MY idiots.”

I wish I always felt like all the people in my life (friends, family, coworkers, students, ex-students…) were MY idiots. But ya’ know what? It’s OK to just think they’re just idiots sometimes (or most of the time…or all of the time).

When a student decides to say, “Chinga tu madre!” to another student riiiight in front of you, it’s OK. When your cousin chooses to go to a sorority function instead of Grandma’s memorial, it’s OK. When people freak out about what’s was left for them in the will even though everyone knows there was barely anything more than a teacup collection…it’s OK. When a student decides it’s acceptable to bite your arm…it’s definitely fucking OK.

[See how I sandwiched that? Teachers: you can always use funny student stories to buffer real-talk.]

I wish I hadn’t started bawling for no apparent reason last night at Aunt Gigi’s as we were celebrating her birthday. But I was looking around that house and suddenly, all I could see was the absence of my uncle, flipping tortillas and laughing. I wish no one was that interested in money. I wish everyone cared about celebrating peoples’ lives more than they care about celebrating their possessions.

I wish everyone could be calm and collected and poised and respectful about death, but that’s like saying I wish everyone was the same, which would be terrible. I guess, mainly, I just wish that love was visible—in everything, in everyone, even in the darkest, most selfish times. If it was only peeking out, barely noticeable, I don’t think I’d feel as rage-cage.

But just like it’s OK to feel like some people are idiots and not MY idiots, I guess it’s OK for love to hide. Maybe it’s one of those, “How would we really know what it was if it wasn’t gone sometimes?” things. Whatever.

All I know is funerals are the worst, people can also be the worst, everything is the worst sometimes. But love is drinking tea with your grandma and flipping tortillas with your uncle and when those people are gone, love is hugging your idiots who know exactly what you mean.