Thursday, 29 December 2011

Horribleness after the fact

So we are in the 4th day of the Shiva now, out of 7. The funeral was pretty horrendous, although it was no worse than I expected. My father trained us all very well, with years of going to my grandfather's memorial service. Going to the cemetery, meeting all the friends and family, the graveside, all of this was familiar territory and felt unsettlingly comfortable (if that is not an oxymoron). The only part that was different was the short service in the funerary building and the presence of the body, which was then interred.

We were supposed to start at 1pm, and at 1:40 I asked my brother what the hold up was. "They're still digging", he said. You see, my father's final wish was to be buried in the same plot as his father, which meant digging up that grave. So, at almost 2pm, when we all bundled into the building and still nothing happened, I asked what the delay was again. My brother said, "it's taking longer to dig through, because your father filled the grave with concrete". My mother and I looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thing. My father buried my grandfather and then covered the grave with concrete to prevent what? His escape? Body snatchers? We started laughing hysterically, in the funeral building, with everyone around us, and we couldn't stop. While we were laughing and crying, the funeral finally got under way.

My father looked very small under the shroud that he was wrapped in and again, that's probably one of the memories that I would prefer to delete from my brain. My brother is having a problem that people keep coming up to him and asking "did your father suffer at all?" I suggested to him that he should answer "Terribly", which would shut them up. Word of advice to anyone comforting people who are bereaved: this is not an appropriate question and one that simply causes a world of pain for the family, regardless of whether the person suffered or not. It causes us to have to focus on those last moments, those hideous snatches of time that we would rather forget as quickly as possible, because they are not indicative of the rest of our father's life. He was so much more, and we would like to be able to start to see his life as a whole, rather than only being able to see the last few weeks.

Again, the burial is something that I would rather forget, so I will not post about it. My grandmother insisted on waiting for everyone to have finished before putting her flowers on the grave. I had wandered off and was talking to some people when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my grandmother fall. I ran over as my brother's helped her to sit down. At that moment, although I don't believe that people can die from a broken heart, I believed that it was happening. My brother asked my grandmother later what was going on. She said "for a moment, I thought I was dying. And you know what? It wasn't so bad". However, I can't go through this misery more often than every decade or so, so I need my grandmother to remain healthy and happy.

Since the funeral, we have been sitting Shiva. Don't know if I need to explain this, but, under Jewish law, the family sits for 7 days and people visit them to condole with them. All a lovely thought and very healthy for grieving and so forth, but there are a few problems. Firstly, we have a lot of people coming that we haven't seen in years or that I don't know at all. It is hard to sit and talk to them, especially when it turns out that the relationship between them and your family member was not all rosy. For instance, yesterday, an old teacher of my father turned up. She said that my father was dyslexic (we all knew that) but also that he was disruptive and a pain in the backside. My grandmother almost punched her. But we have no control over who comes through the door. The next problem is that we don't have any control over what time these people come. They can come at any hour of day or night. So they start at around 10am and don't leave until after 10pm. Between the hours of 1pm and 3pm we are supposed to eat, and sometimes we have a short reprieve. But mostly we eat in shifts, with the people not eating sitting with the guests. Another problem is that we don't get any time for ourselves. We have plenty of stuff to work through, but we are only able to snatch little moments of time between people who ask us if he suffered. We need time for the family and, further, we need time to ourselves. I am so peopled out that it is unreal. This is the only time of day that I get to myself. So I am going to do some more land law and wait for the sun to rise.

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