Monday, October 10, 2011

Mum stuff Monday | Children and funerals

If you read my previous post, you would understand why I've been absent for over a week. The past week has been all about family. There have been plenty of cuddles and lots of talk about what happens when you pass away. The kids have been so good about it, and so very caring.

Andrew and I had to make the decision about whether to take the kids along to Poppy George's funeral. I never went to my grandparents funerals, and it is something I've always been sad about. I never got to say that last goodbye.  I didn't want our children to have that same regret, but by the same token, I didn't want to distress them even further.  It was a hard decision, that's for sure.  We gave the children the benefit of the doubt and took them along. I think they actually provided a pretty good distraction for the adults.

We dressed Eme in a pretty pink floral dress, and Seth in dressy jeans, shirt and tie. They looked gorgeous in their non-black attire. Eme asked why she wasn't wearing black like every one else...I just feel they're too young to dress so somberly. Children exude life and I wasn't going to stifle that.

The one thing that really concerned me was that it would be an open casket. I thought it might have only been for maybe half an hour, but it turned out to be for the entire church service. When they started removing the coffin lid, I took the kids out of the church. I didn't want them to be confronted with something they weren't ready for. I wasn't ready for it either. This is the first time I've ever seen a dead person. We waited. The priest chanted. We waited some more. I peeked around the corner and couldn't see inside the coffin from inside the church, so I brought the kids back inside. The service was so long and the kids were so brilliant...Seth dutifully holding an orchid (or awkward as Eme calls and Eme holding her candle.

At the end of the service, everyone walked up to the coffin to say their last goodbyes.  Curiosity got the better of Seth and he wanted to go too. Andrew held his hand and walked him forward. I followed behind, not knowing what to expect. This is one time I'm thankful that our children are short...Seth could only see the tip of his nose.  I peered over to see George resting peacefully. He just looked asleep. Relief swept over me.  The White Ladies reattached the coffin lid and Seth walked over and laid the orchid on top. Papa told him to wait until they got to the cemetery, but Seth was adamant that it go in the hearse with Pop.

After the church service, we followed the cortege to the cemetery. We have taken the children to a cremation service before, which usually ends with a curtain being drawn in front of the coffin. This time, it was a burial. The coffin was draped in the Australian flag and "The Last Post" was played in honour of George's time in the army during WWII. Just before his coffin was lowered, the flowers were removed (including Seth's orchid) and the flag was folded and presented to Nanna. Without a second thought, Seth picked up the orchid and gave it to Nanna. She asked him to give it to Pop, which he did. Seth was absolutely amazed at how deep the hole was I. We said goodbye.  At the wake, the children went to the dessert table first and I wasn't about to stop them. They deserved it.

The next day I overheard the children talking about how much they miss Poppy George.  Taking a child to a funeral is a very personal decision, and in our case it was a valuable experience. We are so proud of how our children handled this situation. Maturity and sensitivity beyond their years.

ps. I took the above photo at the cemetery. The flowers looked so beautiful on George's coffin with his medals and the Australian flag. It felt very strange taking a photo, but I'm glad I did.

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