The first funeral I ever attended, to my knowledge, is the one for my Papa Al… or it was “the wake”. All I remember is there not being enough space in Mimi’s truck, so I sat in the floorboard between Mimi’s feet, and all my worries revolved around never being able to see my favorite person again. “He’s gone?!” I’d shout once ever so often before bursting into tears just when everyone else in the truck thought I’d finally got it. Everyone wanted me to stop crying, and they told me to stop. They told me it was hard on everyone. I didn’t understand how someone could just die like that.
I remember the day he died, too. I, with my aunt M, had just arrived home via the bus. I didn’t understand what was going on, but she did. Cars were parked all at Mama Lois’ house, and no one was at Mimi’s. She knew before we were even told, but I didn’t. I didn’t understand what had happened, couldn’t read her face, and never could have assumed he had died.
When Mama Lois died, I had literally left a few minutes prior to pick up something to eat from Sonic, because I was hungry, but we didn’t have anything that sounded even remotely good at the house. She had been sick and in hospice care, stationed in the room anyone in the house could see. She was in a place in the house one could not ignore even if they wanted to, so I saw her weaken every single day. I knew she was going to die soon. My mom and aunt told me Mama Lois asked if I was gone, and when they’d said yes, she told them she was going to go now. When I got back, my mom met me at the door. I remembered the look in M’s eyes and simply said, “She’s gone.”
People were crying.
I headed toward the kitchen with the bag of food, which neither my mom nor Bebe wanted, and started eating. I didn’t cry.
When I was a child, Mama Lois told me she didn’t want me to be there when she died. We had a mutual understanding, and I suppose it was great I had gone to Sonic when I did, because… she got her wish. I wasn’t there.
I attended the wake, but not the funeral. I stayed at home with my siblings for the funeral, which wound up working in my favor. What might as well have been known as my immediate family was there first; I looked over the song selection, saw “Amazing Grace” on the list of songs to be sung, and approved; she wanted that song to be sung at her funeral. I knew this, because the same day she told me about not wanting me to be there when she died was the same day she had told me she’d spoken with her lawyer about what she wanted at her funeral. She’d made a plan. She didn’t want people to be sad.
But people were sad.
It didn’t make any sense at all.
At the wake, people apologised to me for my loss, but I didn’t lose her—Mama Lois was not someone who went missing; she died, and she wouldn’t be coming back. She was in pain and suffering, and she died. She couldn’t endure the illness any longer, and she died.
I still didn’t cry.
I was annoyed at the overwhelming mass of people who’d come to apologise, which I can still only assume today was supposed to bring comfort instead of annoyance.
Last year, my grandfather, “Papa”, passed away due to a brain tumor. I watched kids for the wake, but I didn’t attend the funeral.
I was frowned upon for it, too.
I wound up sleeping through the night to the entire day, if only to avoid the confrontation I would wind up having to face.
However, I also didn’t say goodbye. A cousin told me I might want to say bye because he was getting close, but I didn’t. I don’t feel the same need to connect other people around me do, and I don’t know if they act like they feel it because they truly do or if they were raised to believe they needed to.
I don’t know.
I knew he was suffering, though, and I didn’t want to remember him like that. I wanted to remember him as the man I had seen before he got sick, because I didn’t grow up around this side of the family—I don’t have many memories of him, and I already felt myself having regrets: I should have played more games with him when he so eagerly asked me and I didn’t feel like it/declined, I should have made the chicken enchiladas more often because he loved them so much, I should have done so many things.
But I couldn’t think about any of that. I still can’t think about any of that.
Having PTSD and a family who does not understand it results in being told not to dwell, but… they were dwelling on the what ifs this and that, and I still don’t understand it.
They were so sad because he had died, but to me, he had died and was no longer suffering.
People tried to guilt me into going, saying he would have liked it if I did. Would he? If he had truly understood my depression, in addition to my aspie self being a sponge, would he have genuinely wanted me to go? People had told me Mama Lois would have liked me to have gone to her funeral, but… no, she would not have. She told me when I was young and she was in her right mind she didn’t want to go.
I hate when people use the dead to justify any kind of reasoning. “What would ___ have wanted you to do?” I feel like it is only another way of manipulation and encourages a person their feelings, needs and desires do not matter as much.
Like, “Oh, well, sorry you’ll risk winding up ten times more depressed than you need to be, but you need to go to the funeral, anyway.”
The more I didn’t understand why this family was so against personal choices, the more I researched what funerals were really all about. However, I still don’t understand the concept, the reason it’s considered an “obligatory social event”, nor why the concept of this practice is so unspoken. I don’t understand social protocols or why I need to participate in them unless I also know the whys; otherwise, I feel they are completely redundant.
To me, it was more about the image benefit regarding the social appearance of each family member of this man, as with every other single special event regarding the family attending Grandmama’s church on the same [planned] day—it’s for appearances, not simply for each individual’s benefit. It is for appearances, which is why the church person will make a big deal about the Lawson family being in their presence.
Perhaps I don’t understand because I didn’t grow up explicitly as the granddaughter of a preacher. Perhaps I don’t understand because I’m an aspie. Perhaps I don’t understand because the importance of appearance and image in general baffles me. I’m not interested and don’t care at all for church politics.
I didn’t want to just wear black.
I didn’t want people continuously making up excuses for me.
“She’s young. She just doesn’t understand. It will hit her soon.”
My grandfather was described as a pillar for this family, and the death of him was described as a “tragic loss”.
It was then that I realised two things: I did not know this man well enough to feel as weird as I did about Mama Lois’ death, and this family has not experienced the same kind of trauma as I have…
…this was the most unfortunate thing they’d ever experienced in their lives. I can’t fathom experiencing death as the most unfortunate thing in my life, and they cannot fathom anything that has happened to me at all.
Because of this, we will never be on the same page—and they will likely never understand why I don’t have interest in being part of funerals.
Funerals, to me, are not per the benefit of the person they are for; instead, they are as a means of comfort for the criers and those who feel they “lost” someone. He was sick… he was going to die. His death symbolized his new lack of pain and suffering. I don’t understand why or how that equates to or means people must wear all black and mourn over the whole thing.
That is what a funeral feels like to me. That is why I don’t attend them.
(Don’t even get me started on “paying respects to the family”.)