19 July 2012

A Week in Adelaide: Part 5 - The Other Side of the Coin

Grief is weird.

Two days after the craziest most joyful celebration we’ve had for many years, the family turned around to back it up with the funeral of my father’s mother.

I’ve never really been able to connect much with funerals. It’s probably because the funerals for my three grandparents (my mother’s father died before I was born) have involved anything but tragedy; they’ve all been celebrations of long and fruitful lives.

It was different last year when I attended funerals for Krysti and Rita: They were larger than life people cut down way too soon by illness. For those women, a corporate expression of mourning was not only necessary, but deeply moving.

I really didn’t feel like that at Nanna’s recent funeral. Is that bad? She made it to 87, and in the end her passing was an end to an unwinnable struggle with illness and physical deterioration with age. She passed away peacefully, surrounded by her loving family.

So somehow the very large and public funeral seemed strange – even unnecessary. I mean, I get that there were heaps and heaps of people who wanted to pay their respects, and I get that funerals are just something we do to mark a person’s death in our culture, but through the whole thing I felt completely disconnected – even when I went forward with the rest of the family to carry the coffin out to the hearse. Like I was watching a ceremony on TV from a culture I don’t understand.

I had thought that last sentence was a really original perpsective, until realised I wrote the same thing on my post about my other grandmother's funeral. Well I may be insensitive, but at least I'm consistent.

I don’t really do external displays of emotion, particularly sadness. My Australian maleness, coupled with the particular stoicism that seems to define the men in my family, means that when I’m surrounded by emotional people, even people I love, my default strategy is to keep quiet and keep my head down, or find somewhere else to be. An alternative strategy I’ve been working on is to climb up on a stage and pretend to be someone else for a while, but that’s another story (and potentially a rather expensive therapy session).

The point is between a thousand (okay… four) aunties plus everyone my elderly grandmother had ever met coming through to pay their respects and no Happy Yess to run away to I really never felt like I had any business sitting in the church that afternoon. My dad gave a great eulogy and the music was nice, but I didn’t feel like it fulfilled any function in terms of ‘saying goodbye’, or ‘getting closure’ or whatever.

And so ended one of the weirder weeks I've ever had in Adelaide. After so many days of heightened, strained and at times forced emotions, I was extremely grateful to escape from the whole thing later that night to the relative tranquility of a Boeing 737 and a good book.

Make of that what you will. And so say we all.




Garry with 2Rs
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