I’m back home after attending the first ever funeral of my life. I’ll summarise the experience as best I can….
There you go, that’s a good summary. But now I’ll go into a bit more detail…
Not a lot of people turned up for my father’s funeral. Mum was expecting about 4 times as many as actually turned up. I think we were all a little sad about that.
I was the only member of the entire family that chose to say something. That was disappointing. Deidre joined me, standing up there in front of everyone, and together we read out a couple of poems. I did a brief ‘eulogy’ to introduce the poems, then Deidre read one, and then I read ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’. I couldn’t help but cry through the whole experience, which both surprised and annoyed me. Surprised me because I didn’t think I’d cry so much, and annoyed me because I didn’t have the clarity I wanted while reading out the poems.
But I got through it, and finished what I started. Afterwards people told me I did a great job. Deidre said that what I did took a lot of strength and courage. That surprised me too. I didn’t feel strong or courageous, just sad. I felt like I needed to say something, and so I did. And being up there ‘in public’ just didn’t seem to matter.
It was surprising how many people talked about everything BUT my father. They were here for a funeral, and no one wanted to talk about him. The only family that turned up was his children and wife, of course, along with his brother and his brother’s partner, and my mum’s brother’s and sisters. The ONLY ones who seemed to want to reflect about my father and his life were me, my brothers, and Deidre. No one else. Amazing.
The life that my mum lived with my dad suddenly changed, from what I remembered it to be, to what she wanted people to think it was. All she could talk about was the love they had together, which I never saw. The joy she experienced as his wife, which only became apparent to me after he died. How she fell in love with him the day she met him, which was just amazing, since I’ve lived a lifetime of hearing about their one night stand which ended in disaster when she got pregnant with me, and how he ‘destroyed her life’ because she had to be with him when she was in love with someone else….
What amazes me most of all is the level of denial that some people engage in, for whatever reasons, and the elaborate illusion they create so that others will think nicely of them and the deceased.
And I remained silent, aware that people need to deal with their grief in their own way. If she wants to pretend there was love where none existed, then that’s what she needs to do.
Mum cried more for her dead budgie than she did for her husband.
I cried not for my loss, but for his loss.
When I was writing my ‘eulogy’ for him the night before the funeral, I went through every single poem in his poem book, in an attempt to find something that simply told it how it was, that talked about his life in such a way that I could relate that to people. From well over 50 poems, I could only find one that talked about his life and the things he’d done, without going anywhere else. Every other poem was about regret, and sadness.
His life was filled with regret for the things he hadn’t done, the places he’d never seen, the stories he couldn’t tell. Themes centred around memories, regret, sorrow, dreams….
I cried because he never lived the life of his choosing, and his poems were his way of crying out at his own loss. And so I cried with him.
Reading his poems to the people at the funeral, I was filled with a sadness that wasn’t about his passing, but about what he never did. And what saddens me most of all is that everyone else, in their denial and lack of interest, will never know.
My mum told us last night that dad’s only regret was that none of us had followed in his footsteps, had chosen a life on the station, in the outback. But she was wrong. Dad’s only regret was that he hadn’t done all that he wanted.
I respect him for what he gave up, so that he could ‘do the right thing’ and raise a family the only way he knew how.
I thank him for helping me to become who I am today. I’ll miss him.
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