“I’m just letting you know I’ll cry at your funeral.”
We were driving back to Knoxville earlier this week when we had this conversation. We had just been to the funeral of our uncle, heard the words of friends and family extending their sorrow and grief to our family. I had just had my grandmother, a woman not known for her compassion or emotions, gripping my back from her wheelchair crying into my ear that she loved me, she loved both of her girls.
And here we sat, going down the dark interstate, talking about how we’d cry at each other’s funerals…because this is how our family does emotions. I’ll be honest that I am the crier in the family. I’m the emotional one, my mom can attest to that fact, dating back to my tumultuous teen years.
As I listened to the stories of how my uncle sang in church, how he competed in an ice cream contest and won as a ten year old (and also diabetic), and how he was made new when he awoke in the presence of God Sunday I couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion. This family isn’t a close one…we don’t operate that way outside of my parents house. We fight and we nag each other. We judge and we cast blame. I think many families are that way, for better and for worse. We grow up in it and think it’s normal, we learn to operate within it and accept it. Then we arrive at these hard, grievous moments (two over the last 18 months in our family) and can’t quite figure out how to process life, death. We hear about our relative and didn’t know those things or we find out there’s another side to someone we thought we knew.
I am learning, at the old age of 33, that part of me is grafted and crafted by my family. I thought on this fact as my sister and I conversed in that car ride Wednesday night. She’s the analytical one who will always work in a process, where I am the wildly feeling one who is sometimes ridiculous with emotions and lives into them. But we both agreed that we would cry at one another’s funerals because that’s how family is, that’s how my family is…we process in conversation, in quiet, in our own way.
We choose our ways of feeling, grieving, caring and loving. For me, that means talking about it, processing out loud, crying (a little more than I’d like sometimes) and choosing quiet and alone. For our family, it means maybe not talking about it as much, about the loss or the grief. Instead we talk about memories, we break the awkward silence with moments of joy. It’s knowing that in our grief there is rejoicing. For we find going about our daily business is often easier than giving way to the reality of the absence of our loved one, their presence still felt even though they no longer are.