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Doing the hard things that need to be done

December 22nd, 2015 at 01:56 pm

I'm feeling sort of oblivious to Christmas. While others look forward to gift giving and decorating the tree, or lighting the menorah, I'm really not thinking of any of that. It doesn't matter.

This morning I had to do something I've never done before (and hope to never do again). I had scheduled an appointment to meet with the local funeral director up the road.

I don't know many people who actually write about their personal experiences in this regard, and I hope you don't think it unseemly, but just as my mother is an artist through and through, so I am a writer in every way, and somehow I feel compelled to record my thoughts and feelings along the way.

I think I was actually traumatized by having to go to a wake at a fairly early age when the pastor of our church died. Ever since, funeral homes give me the heebbeejeebees, but perhaps you don't like them either. Who would, I guess.

It actually wasn't as bad as I thought. I broke the ice with a little small talk remarking on him being 3rd generation of his family to be in this business. He was nice enough and anyway, I was surprisingly calm. If you're curious, the total bill is $5340. This includes cremation and an urn (no casket, no embalming), a service by pastor, burial, use of their facilities for the wake, prayer cards and pick up at the nursing home. The only things it doesn't include is the cost of the obituary in 1 of the 3 papers I want to put it in and some flowers for the wake. I will also be able to bring 6 of my mother's pieces of art for the wake. (He has 6 easels.)

I thought this was on the high side, but he is very nearby and his proximity also to the cemetery and myself would just make it convenient. I don't feel like shopping around for this. The price would have been much, much higher if I had gone with a traditional burial as the caskets cost from about $800 up to $10,000. Not sure why it matters since it's going in the ground pretty quickly, and things that people say to each other or see (like mom's art) i think are more important.

I honestly don't know if ANYONE will come to the wake. It's conceivable it could just be me. That would make me feel pretty miserable on an already miserable day. Although I think my dad would come, to support me. Not sure about my sister since she made the one visit to see my mother and i never did hear from her before or afterwards, so that may be all she can handle. Of my mother's 2 cousins in NJ, 1 is older than her and I'm guessing wouldn't want to make the trip, and the other did recently lose her husband and works f/t, so I don't know if she'd able to come either.

I have already put a whole bunch of names, culled from my mother's yahoo email account, of friends, fellow artists and patrons of the arts with whom she regularly communicated. Perhaps some of those would come, but again, I have no idea. Since I personally am fearful of wakes, there could be others like me too. Perhaps after putting this one together I will have less fear and be better able to comfort others when they need it.

I've already written a rather long obituary and emailed it to the funeral director. You may feel this is sort of morbid, but I know I will not be in good shape when my mother passes, and the more things I can do now, while I have a relatively clear head, the easier it will be. Because no one else is going to do it.

Instead of putting a religious verse on the back of the so-called prayer cards, I think I may have found something my mother wrote about her art, as part of her Artist's Statement displayed with her art at exhibits. Yes, her life was all about her art, and I mean to share its beauty with whoever may show up.

The funeral director said he could probably do what I wanted, which was to hold the private family service and burial immediately after the wake. This way, I can get through it all in a single day. I'm not sure I could handle it otherwise. If there's really bad snowfall, though, it's possible burial would be delayed, even until spring.

Yesterday I left work early to meet the hospice team at Masonicare. I met the social worker, her boss and the actual caregiver/nurse. The nurse will start out only seeing her 1 or 2 days a week and then increase down the road. But they can do massages, art therapy, pet therapy and just generally give her more time and attention, which I think would really help.

Today I went again and brought a small dish of chopped up strawberries, blueberries and yogurt, and today's musical selection was Vivaldi's 4 Seasons. I also brought one of my mother's 3 ring notebooks filled with newspaper clippings about her work, which we went through togethr. I brought another Christmas present, too, and a Christmas card from her cousin.

Because she is now under hospice care, they stopped the physical therapy, which I'm guessing didn't really go anywhere anyway. But I AM worried about bedsores becus she's constantly sitting in that chair. I think next time I will bring ice cream, a favorite of hers. My mother struggled to speak today, but I managed to understand some of it. I also read to her from one of her Science of Mind booklets, an issue in which she wrote a long time ago about how Science of Mind was a transformational event in her life. I have learned so much in the past 6 months about who my mother was as a person, apart from who I thought she was as a parent.

8 Responses to “Doing the hard things that need to be done”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    You are doing everything right for you and your mother. That is really all that matters and you should not apologize to any of us for your approach. We all have our own way of grieving and this is yours.

  2. jokeabee Says:

    When my mom passed away I went to a cremation society. It was run by a man who also had a funeral home in the town, but he told me that the government (federal? state? who knows) requires all sorts of extra fees for cremations in funeral homes so he opened a cremation society to give an affordable alternative to families. It was $2000, but I only had the cremation done. We didn't have a wake or funeral or burial. My mom didn't want me to keep her ashes but she never specified how long I had to scatter them so for now she lives on my night stand beside my bed.

    Is it important to your mom to have a wake? You're already going through an awful time and there's little reason to put more stress and heartache on yourself. But I understand wanting (and needing) to honor your mom's wishes.

    My thoughts have been with you. I hope you find comfort anywhere you can.

  3. Carol Says:

    You are doing a great job of all the hard stuff a death entails. I bet it's helpful to others who haven't had to do this to read about your experiences. I love that you are going thru your mom's clippings with her. Great idea-- I wish I had thought to do that. My mom's last food was a spoonful of ice cream-- she'd say "good choice!"

  4. MonkeyMama Says:

    I don't have any frame of reference. Our family just does cremation/scattering of ashes. No formal wake or services, or burial. Plus most of our family is across the country, and so it was never deemed important enough that we all show up, even for my Dad's very large and more traditional Catholic family.

    I agree with the others. You just have to do what you have to do for you.

  5. PatientSaver Says:

    Jokeabee, no, my mother never really specified any preferences in regards to a funeral. I thought the wake would be comforting to me, to possibly meet more of her friends and acquaintaces. I know when my father's mother died, she didn't want a wake, service, burial witnessed by others or anything, and so my father carried out those wishes, but i must say i felt a lack of closure and an opportunity to say "goodbye" in some way. It's almost like her death didn't happen.

    I am proud of my mom and all her accomplishments, and i suppose that's also behind my desire to have a wake...to soak in any words of comfort or little stories that others may have. It's just another way of trying to hold my mother close to me after she's gone.

    After thinking about it, I knew i couldn't have ashes in my home, it would shake me up way too much, and it would be also too traumatic to scatter them somewhere, not to mention that scattering anywhere but on your own property is I'm pretty sure illegal. I know people do it all the time, but again i thought it would be a comfort to have a place to visit on occasion, hence the burial. Once you scatter the ashes, if you happen to move, it might not be so easy to visit, if that's something you might like to do. That being said, I've never returned to the cemeteries where any of my grandparents are buried, all in NJ.

  6. Jenn Says:

    My dad spent about $2500 (8 years ago) when my mom died for a cremation and memorial service at the funeral home. We opted for only an hour of 'visitation' which made the price lower and kept us from having to stand and talk to people while attempting not to cry for so long. Since there was no body, my brothers and I compiled a collage of pictures mounted on foam-core board that was placed on easels in the front.

    I agree with the others to do what YOU need to acknowledge the event. My husband and I have agreed that if we face the situation ourselves, we'll skip the service and just have cremation and an obituary.

    Take care of yourself. You've had so much responsibility placed on you alone.

  7. livingalmostlarge Says:

    I am so sorry that this is hitting now. I think you are doing everything you can and know yourself best. I think if given a chance I would write an obituary while clear headed as well. I hope that you can find some peace this holiday season. Know that all your cyber friends are thinking of you and sending you cyber hugs and prayers.

  8. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    When my dad died 3 1/2 years ago no one had ever discussed with him what he'd want if he died - other than to have the song Precious Lord be part of his service. My brother and I talked it over and decided that cremation was the way to go (what he probably would have wanted - he was pretty frugally minded).

    One thing I wish I had NOT done was to see his body in the hospital before they'd cleaned him up .... that is a memory/picture I would dearly love to erase.

    Meeting with the funeral home person was a first for me. Both my brother and I were pretty calm - I think we were still in shock really. For me it didn't *really* hit home until when my grandma and I went to collect his ashes a few weeks later. I didn't keep any of the ashes. I just couldn't.

    We had a memorial service for him about two weeks after he died to accommodate some people who wanted to come, but couldn't at that exact time. It was surreal .. to be surrounded by family and people he'd touched in that community but not have him there joking around or speaking of the great hope.

    We never did put an obituary in the paper, although we talked about it. I'm not really sure why we didn't. Both my brother and I posted on FB about it - so many of his friends found out that way.

    I'm so sorry you are going through this. How you choose to handle all the details of the now and the after -- that is the right choice for you. That's all that matters. {{hugs}}

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