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Monday, April 8, 2013

For those who weren't there... (warning: long post ahead)

Also for people who were there, for people who missed parts, for myself - in memoriam. 

There are two new dates for me to remember - April 3rd and April 6th. My mom passed away on April 3rd and was cremated on April 6th. I think my family - immediate family; mom, dad, brother and myself; all knew she was going to pass away this year... we just didn't know when. It was the not knowing that was most difficult. 

My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. She had a mastectomy, did both radiation and chemotherapy for a bit and all was well for a while. Then it reappeared in 2000, 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2011. Each time it did she would go through radiation, chemotherapy or both. She tried alternative therapies, natural healing, fruits and vegetables, juicing and cleanses. Through it all she was positive. Focused. Intent on not letting her life be ruled by her illness. Her spirit was indomitable. She was an example to all... and definitely to me. 

There were many hard times but at no time did I think she would pass until this year. This year I think her body couldn't be persuaded anymore. The spirit was willing, the flesh could only take so much. She became bedridden towards the end of January and remained that way till her passing. She was conscious till the end and as I wrote before, the word that best describes her passing is 'ease'. 

I think that word can also be used to describe the wakes and funeral services that were held. Perhaps it was because of a measure of grace that everything flowed smoothly. Hopefully, this grace will remain with us. 

She wanted her funeral to be done according to Hindu rites. I think it is the religion she was most drawn to. The rites were done at home - the funeral home brought the body and we had a private viewing before the funeral service started. We [my brother, dad and I] are lucky that our aunts are more involved in the Hindu faith than we are and so were able to guide us in what needed to be done. 

The pundit was one who had grown up with her... the son of a neighbour. I either like or do not like pundits depending on their service and how they perform the rites and rituals. I liked this one - he was very cognizant of the needs of our family I think. He explained what was happening for those persons who were at the funeral who were not of the Hindu faith (and those who were but weren't aware of all that goes on). It was simple and sweet. There was a hush in the air... that feeling that you get when you walk into a holy space, or have a private moment of reflection. 

We had the funeral service at the crematorium. I was impressed by the 'funeral coordinators' - never knew there was such a thing as a 'funeral coordinator' till this year. I had met with one earlier in the year when we started to suspect that this year might be it... laid the groundwork for what would be an awesome funeral. Can one describe a funeral as 'awesome'? I'm doing it now. 

I met with the funeral coordinator the two days between her passing and her funeral. There are a lot of details that must be taken care of and I'm glad that they helped with them. We were trying to arrange for live streaming of the service at the crematorium's chapel but it didn't work out. Everything else did - and for that I'm grateful. 

We are a timely family... I think that the funeral coordinators were grateful for that. Had to leave home after the funeral rites to get to the crematorium for 12:30 p.m. to have service and then cremate at 2:00 p.m. The cute guy was assigned to be at the crematorium in case we got stuck anywhere. We were on time... the entire day. I am taking a moment to feel smug about that. Yes, when everything goes as it is supposed to, I feel smug. I am an excellent planner. Mwahaha. (I should give some credit to my dad... and the aunts who are also excellent planners... but... mwahaha!)

The service was planned in a day. To be honest, I've not been to many funerals... and so I wasn't entirely sure what happens in a funeral service. Had to rely on memory and the assistance of the funeral coordinators to pull together a programme in a day... and then had to get persons to talk/perform on the day. 

My mom's best friend was the chairperson (is this the term used for a funeral service? perhaps 'Master of Ceremonies'? hmm). She's known my mom *forever* and by that I mean that she's known my mom since they were teenagers - they've been through a lot together. She was the most appropriate person I think. 

I said the opening prayer... I may have panicked... I'm sure my voice was shaky. I was emotional and generally do not like being in front of crowds of people. I choked on the English translation  cuz it started with "O Mother,...". Ah well. 

The Guru gave his blessings. He always speaks so well. His words capture more accurately what I'm thinking and feeling than my own words do. I wish I'd thought of recording what was said. He told the crowd that I have a blog. Eep. The Guru reads my blog. Eep!

My brother did the eulogy. I admit I was a bit worried about him doing that initially. I need to remember that the brother is now fully grown and in some ways more mature than I am. He was wonderful and meaningful and almost made me cry. Oy. He's been home with my mom for the past two years. I know he's had his own experiences with her. 

Shoeaholic sang. It was the first time I'd heard her sing... She sings for her church and has a group and has been in choirs and I'd never heard her sing before. On Friday I asked if she would and she said yes, I didn't ask what song and she didn't tell me and then at the funeral she sang this: 
She was awesome. That is all. I'm really happy that I asked her. Even better, I think *my dad* was happy that I'd asked. Whoa.

There were tributes - from my uncle, a close friend of my mom, a member of the youth group and her sister-in-law. Shared memories of good times, she was a wonderful sister, friend, mentor, person. In short, she loved and was loved. 

Another old friend of my mom's sang. He was one who had gone to school with her and is in the Ashram and has sang with her on many occasions. She loved his voice and so we asked him to sing. I wasn't sure about the song but my dad was. It's a song about the lover waiting for their beloved... it made everyone weepy... 
He also did the closing prayer and then sang background songs whilst people viewed the body before time for cremation.

A cremation is very final. Fire is cleansing. Purifying. Liberating. 

I think there's something slightly wrong with me that I'm also thinking that there's definitely no chance for her to become a zombie. This is one of my reasons for wanting to be cremated at the end of my life - no chance of becoming a zombie. 

I didn't want to see the attendants put the body in the fire. I don't like that part of cremations at all. I can see the body burning and feel all calm and peaceful - say my prayers for the soul moving on, but... the initial moment? *sigh* Cremation is very final. 

I made myself look. It was the one moment when I thought I'd dissolve. Letting go is much harder than I thought it would be. Seeing the body go up in flames helps with that somewhat - there's nothing physical to hold on to. Just her spirit with me now... and always I think.

A lot of people hugged me. I am not into hugs from people I barely know... or even people I do know. Close family and friends only. For the funeral though, I thought it was a way of ...holding space... for other persons who would be missing my mom in their own way. Hugs help people. I can handle people hugging me in such cases. I did. A lot of people hugged me. 

It was a good funeral as it was a good transition. 

After, my close family came back home... spent the evening reminiscing, ole talking, being together. 

It settled me. The funeral, rites and service - the rituals and speeches and sharing. I think these are done both for the one who has departed and for those who remain. 

Blessed be my mama - you lived a good life and will be remembered with love. 

peace,
Ren

3 comments:

Andrea Owen said...

RIP..... two beautiful mature adults.....she is extremely proud of her 2 children.

Renee R. said...

I think she is :) am happy funeral turned out ok.

<3

Anonymous said...


It was a most beautiful celebration of Reena's life and her family managed themselves and the event in the most wonderful way. She must be so proud`... I can imagine her smiling the whole time.