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The Awkward, The Sad And The Beautiful Moments Of My Mother’s Funeral

“These are just awkward,” he said with a goofy half smile.

My family and I were lined up to the left of my mom’s open casket, greeting friends and family as they paid their respects.

I started laughing and replied, “I know. What do you say at this kind of thing?” Thank you, man-from-my-parents-church-I-don’t-know, Adam.

You had the guts to say what everybody else was thinking.

Funerals are awkward, sad, awful, beautiful and surreal. It felt like a dream and a nightmare all at once.

When we got to the church to set up before the viewing started, I walked in, saw my mom’s lifeless face and lost it.

I was with her when she died, and I saw her body taken away. I knew what my mom looked like dead.

But seeing her in the coffin, her face done up like plastic, just hours before we would lay her body six feet under forever was one of the worst feelings.

Before I could stop them, the tears started flowing. (It’s regular occurrence these days. I cry when I’m checking out at the store, dropping my kids off at school, etc.)

After my sweet husband held me while the tears flowed, I dried my face, touched up my lipstick and took my place in line.

Family I hadn’t seen in years came from out of state. It was like the family reunion we had been trying to plan for years with no success. Leave it to Mom to get us all together.

As I greeted all of these amazing, beautiful people, we said the same awkward phrases over and over. They were most definitely heartfelt, but awkward all the same:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“She’s in a better place.”

“She’s no longer in pain.”

What can you say to someone who just lost one of the most important and wonderful people in her life? Not much.

And that’s why I really appreciated this dude’s comment.

“These things are just awkward.” Amen, brother.

The viewing was followed by a really incredible service. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of tears.

I was on the program to speak. I tried to write something out, but it just wasn’t working. So, I got up and winged it.

I don’t remember much about what I said, just that I talked about the greatest lesson I learned from my mom was unconditional love (which was basically the theme of everyone else’s talk, too).

Then, I told a funny story about one of my favorite things she used to do. She would ask if you wanted some food, and if you said, “Sure, just a little bit,” she would literally bring over just a little bit.

She would give you one Cheerio with a drip of milk in a huge mixing bowl, giggling as she brought it over, then cracking up when she saw your reaction.

Mom, I miss you so much. You were so cute and funny, and I love you.

Anyway.

I was surprised at the burial.

Did you know you don’t actually get to see the casket go into the ground? You have a dedication of the grave, cry a lot and then you stand around and chat.

Slowly, people start making their way back to the church for a hearty meal of funeral potatoes and brownies.

But, the casket just hangs out with some funeral dudes watching over it, and they bury it later. I didn’t like that. It felt strange not to be part of finalizing it.

A few days passed, and I went to see my mom’s grave yesterday. They had a temporary marker on the grave with her obituary until we get a headstone placed.

They had the years wrong. It said August 9, 2015 to August 12, 2015.

I guess my mom was only 3 days old.

I marched back to my car, got a pen and fixed it. Victory!

At least I’ve done something good in my life, right?

I sat on top of the grave in the freshly turned dirt and cried. I hated that her body was underground, all alone.

I don’t know a world without my mom. We have psychically existed together since the second I was conceived.

While I understand the concept of “she’s not her body,” and I get that her spirit is soaring around and I’ve felt her with me, that doesn’t bring a whole lot of comfort.

Let’s be honest about something: No matter how much you believe in an afterlife, it still sucks ass (sorry, Mom) to lose someone’s physical presence.

Saying “it’s just a body” is not true. That very body encompassed my mom’s soul, so it was a huge part of my experience with her.

She carried and gave birth to me.

Those arms wrapped around me thousands of times.

Those hands wiped tears away, rubbed my back when I was sick, made my kick-ass Halloween costumes, prom dresses, the best peach cobbler in the world and the most incredible tole paintings the world has ever seen.

That face expressed every emotion: sadness when I went through heartbreak, concern when I was sick with stomach issues and anger when I was being a poophead.

She had absolute love and adoration and smile that lit up a room.

We shared the same curly toes (hers from ballet, and mine from gymnastics).

Her infectious laughter was always followed by “Oh, shoot!”

My mom’s body is not just a body. It’s no longer up, walking around and hanging out at her house.

I can’t go hug her today. I can’t sit at her counter and chat with her about things she really doesn’t care about, but pretends to because she’s sweet like that.

Her body was a beautiful vessel for her spirit to hang out in while she played her role on this Earth, and she did an amazing job.

So while yes, I understand the concept she is still here with us in spirit, I want her body back, gosh darnit! (That was for you, Mom. I know you hated the swears.)

At her grave, I had a whispered conversation with her, telling her how much I missed her and how much I loved her. A sudden warm breeze washed over me, swirled around the flowers on her grave and then was gone.

Hi, Mom. Please keep showing up, please keep giving me wind hugs and please keep wrapping your soul around my heart because I can feel it, and it brings me so much comfort during this time.

Please never stop being with me because as time passes without you, I don’t want to ever get used to you not being around.

As a dear friend said to me at the funeral, it’s not one week farther from her death, but one week closer to seeing her again. (But, she said it all poetic-like and stuff.)

Ah, perspective. It makes any situation that appears hopeless and awful to seem hopeful and bright.

As I walked away from my moms grave, I felt so sad leaving her alone, so deep down and in the blackness. It broke my heart.

But this is where the “she’s not her body” concept is a comfort.

Because as I walked away, I knew she was walking with me. And she will always walk with me.

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Melissa Mae

Contributor

Melissa Mae is an illustrator, photographer and designer. You can see her work at www.thecheekywhale.com.
Melissa Mae is an illustrator, photographer and designer. You can see her work at www.thecheekywhale.com.

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