Monday, August 26, 2013

The Happy Funeral Post

Today, after work, after the rain, after my cold, I had to attend a funeral. It occurred to me that this makes 3 years in a row in which I've been to a funeral. Other than being incredibly creeped out by this new occurrence, it made me realize that unlike the other two, this was a very happy funeral.

There are probably a lot of factors that influenced my perception of it as such, especially the fact that this wasn't exactly my family and therefore a bit of an unknown quantity for me, especially the fact that one of the previous two funerals was a gut-wrenching and untimely tragedy. But the thing was, it got me thinking, it got me thinking of what my family is like and the horrible secrets and resentments we keep. Everyone was telling such a happy stories about the deceased, such a hearty way of taking on disaster. It made me try to imagine what we'll say when my grandmother dies. I don't think any of us could ever manage much good cheer at such a time. And also, kind of embarrassingly, it made me think of what I'm going to say when my mother dies.

I think about her death a lot, and I don't like it. It makes me feel cold and uncaring.

It makes me remember that House episode where he attempts to give an eulogy for his abusive father. He tries to be civil and diplomatic, but also as brutally honest as he can be, because of course he is House after all.

So here goes my attempt at a not-yet-necessary eulogy:

She was a remarkable woman, who, in her life, accomplished more than many of us will ever dream of. She lived for her work, though she wasn't always happy about that and understood the wish for more in life. She lived for me too, and at times, that was too heavy a burden to bear.

However, she has left behind a number of people, other than me, who will mourn her and who will be much better off for her presence in this world; maybe more than she could have imagined. She made life-long friends in colleagues and students alike and few of them will ever understand the incredible blessing that they received, when being the focus only of her love, attention and generosity, and never of all the other, darker things, that she reserved for herself.

Once she was all I desired to be, my personal hero. Once.

Her best qualities were often her worst too, and that is the inheritance she has left me. For better or worse she made me in her image: perfectionist, neurotic, self-critical, arrogant and hard-working. I thank her for my schooling, for my intellectual curiosity, for my artistic vision, for my professional ethics and the ample rewards all of these have brought me. But I do not thank her for the fear.

She was my mother, and will never cease being it, not even in death.

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