Monday, October 20, 2008

On Funerals and Saying Goodbye: Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Yeah, so this hasn't gone even remotely the way I had planned. As it turns out, I'm not a very good writer, or at least I'm not very good at writing in the style I was going for. I tried, and tried, and tried, writing the second part and then agonizing over it and then rewriting it. It's like having a vision in your head of a grand painting and when it comes time to paint, all you come up with is stick figured and happy little clouds. Unfortunately, you're the one who ends up looking at my crappy painting, but hey, at least I tried.

As we were driving up to the PA, my dad was keeping it together, but I could tell that he really didn't want to deal with his brother's death. Just the fact that he didn't go up earlier than he did spoke volumes, as this is a guy who never needed an excuse to drive a few hours and visit his family. Once we got closer to when we'd be meeting to have dinner and then go to the viewing, I could tell that he really didn't want to go. I totally understood. I mean, once you see your brother there in the casket, you can't deny his death any longer.

Unfortunately, eventually we did have to go to the viewing, and all of us had to confront the fact that Randy wasn't going to be with us any more. They had dressed him in one of his signature flannel shirts with a NASCAR t-shirt underneath, and had placed his riding jacket in the casket with him. I was glad to see that his kids didn't put him in a suit, as Randy would have hated that. As expected, my dad, aunt and grandmother didn't handle seeing Randy all that well. This was the thing I was most dreading. As a child, even when you're a grown adult, you still don't expect to find yourself in a position where you have to comfort your parents. They're the ones that are supposed to be comforting you. I'm not good with the comforting, and seeing my dad so broken up was hard to watch. I think it's normal to feel useless in these situations, which I did, but I did what I felt I could do, namely was there to provide support and hug whoever needed to be hugged and talk to whoever wanted to talk about Randy.

My cousins were similarly broken up, however as they had been dealing with things for days now, they were a little better about things. It's weird how much people seem to grow up in front of you when you know that their parent has died. Seeing my younger cousins get married or have a baby never made them seem older to me, but seeing them and knowing that their dad had passed suddenly made them seem older than me.

Everyone in the family was surprised to see how many people came to the viewing, and everyone who was more than happy to talk to you about how much they loved hanging out with Randy drinking a beer, or going for a ride or just shooting the shit. I think it made my cousins feel better to know that their dad had touched so many people, and that they weren't missing him all on their own.

The next day brought the service and the internment. Randy's friend did the eulogy and he really did a fantastic job. He's a pastor, so he had all of the right passages prepared, but because he was Randy's friend, he was genuinely grieved at Randy's passing, so he struck the right note between someone who understands that God has a plan, and someone who was upset that Randy's passing was part of it. Not being religious, I don't share the same views, but he still did a great job with the eulogy. After that, it was off to the cemetery with my cousin rising Randy's bike, followed by three other bikes to lead off the procession.

After the internment the family headed over to the Moose Lodge, where my uncle used to hang out, and we all got a chance to just catch up with each other as well as look at old photos of Randy and talk about how much we had all loved him. There was also a lot of food, something I'll still never get used to. Sorry for your loss, have you tried the cookies?

The funeral ended up being a good thing, as much as such a thing can be. I never really understood the purpose behind wakes and funerals as I tend to think more about celebrating someone's life once they're gone, rather than mourning their passage. I have a much better understanding of the purpose of these events now, after watching how my family changed between before the viewing and after the internment. For my cousins, they seemed tired, but much, much better at the end of the two days than at the beginning. Ditto for my dad. I still think the whole viewing thing is ghoulish, and maybe that's from a childhood steeped in horror fiction, but the events gave my family comfort and closure and that's the most important thing.

The toy motorcyle that I had spent to much time looking for ended up leaning up against Randy's jacket, and I'd like to think that wherever he is, he's riding it, or something much better than it, given my limited motorcycle knowledge. He was a good man, a great brother and a fantastic father and grandfather. We are all the better for having known him, and we'll all miss him.


Brad Lehigh said...

I've enjoyed hearing your perspective on all of this. It's always interesting to hear how other people view the things that you're going through.

Just an FYI, it wasn't a NASCAR t-shirt. It was a Thunder in the Valley T-shirt. He loved riding up to Thunder, and I looked forward every year to spending the trip with him and sharing some time surrounded by something we both loved... Motorcycles.

It was good seeing you, but just wish, as the oft-heard phrase goes, it was under better circumstances.


Brandon said...

I figured I got the t-shirt wrong, as I didn't see too much of it. I'm not real good at these kinds of things, so I tend to look quickly and then move to a more comfortable distance.

BTW, for those confused right now, Brad is Randy's son-in-law, my cousin Brianne's husband and an all around good guy. ;) He also rode a bike at the head of the funeral procession.

Yeah, it was good to see all of you as well, again, given the circumstances. Hopefully Linda and I and the kids can see everyone soon for happier times.