So, the funeral for my cousin's child, Bryce, was harder than I expected. I drove to Camrose with my friend Dana and her two children, a three hour drive wondering and talking. After we dropped off Dana's kids at a friend's, we went over to the church. The first person I recognized was my aunt and upon seeing the look of anguish on her face, I rushed over and just hugged her tight. You must understand, I don't see my extended family much at all. In fact the last time I saw Wes and Colleen, Bryce's parents, was at their wedding a few years ago. We're just not that great at keeping in touch. But a funeral just isn't the place for small talk, and that was ok for me. Looking back, I saw it as an opportunity for me to just be present and to support my suffering family.
I've never been to a funeral where the actual deceased person is there, so I was pretty shocked to see a pale faced, doll-like body in this tiny coffin laden with silk and covered in flowers. I never got to meet Bryce. I was in SA for most of his short life. But my mom remarked solemnly afterwards that the body in the coffin wasn't Bryce. He was obviously gone from that body.
After the funeral we drove in a huge procession to the Bawlf Lutheran Cemetery, 20 minutes away. Bawlf is a tiny town of about 300 people where I spent the first 7 years of my life. They buried Bryce under a grove of small trees, right across from my grandfather who died when I was so young, I didn't understand death. I still don't understand death. I've never been to an internment as they call it either. It's so strange that this person once alive and able to be touched and able to respond, is now locked in a box and hidden beneath the ground. How do the ones most grieved, Wes and Colleen, walk away? How is anyone able to walk away?
We didn't stay at the cemetery long. I stared at the headstone of my grandfather's grave for awhile until my cousin, Aaron, came over and gave me a giant hug. I haven't seen him in a long time either. I guess funerals will encourage this: I felt it necessary to make sure my family knew I loved and appreciated them very much! And I decided I should not be so lazy about correspondence.
Finally, we went to the reception at the Bawlf Lutheran Church, where I spent many Vacation Bible Schools, Christmases and Easters...it still smells the same! How vivid my childhood memories were as we sat around plastic table-cloth covered tables, eating home-baked squares and drinking coffee, my whole extended family there. We watched a presentation of pictures of Bryce's life; my uncle behind me choked up when the photo of him baptizing Bryce came up. I think the hardest part was seeing just how hard Bryce's death has been for the entire family. I'm still struggling to get it to all fit inside my head.
Dana and I picked up her kids; both very glad, her way more than me, to see happy, healthy children alive and growing, greet us at the door. It may be cliche, but it so true...
You don't know what you've got until it's gone.