This last weekend
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19-01-2015, 04:30 PM (This post was last modified: 19-01-2015 07:27 PM by The Organic Chemist.)
This last weekend
As some of you know, my grandmother recently passed (BTW, thanks for the condolences) and this weekend we had the funeral. This was my first funeral in about 10 years and the first since realizing I was an atheist. My grandparents are quite devout catholics. By devout, I mean that when I was a kid and stayed there, we went to mass every day (no that is not a typo). I do not know of a single non-believer in the family except for myself so I knew that this was going to this was going to be a bit of an odd experience.

During the visitation, I was a wreck. It took me about 20 minutes to even enter the room where she lay. After getting to the doorway, I found myself quickly excusing myself and hiding in a corner and sobbing like a baby. One of my uncles found me and we cried together for a few minutes and then I regained my composure. I finally made it into the room although I only made it in a few feet, just far enough to find refuge on a couch where I wept some more. I collected myself and I went about greeting relatives. I found myself not able to look at her for a long time so I kept my back to her as I spoke with family. Eventually, I found it possible to perform an about-face and there she was. It was finally seemed real to me. I saw my grandfather sitting on a chair giving me a look that I have never seen coming from him in the 35 years I have known him. This was the person he saw nearly every day for the last 70 years and what was left of her was a mere few feet away but she may as well been on the moon. That was the depth of his sadness and it was that obvious. I hope my day to sit in that chair is well over a half century down the road.

The following day was the funeral and I knew that would be very difficult as well. I held my 7 year-old as I went to view her again and once again, I could not hold back the tears. He asked me why I was crying and I said that I was sad because I will miss her. True to his nature, he put his arm on my shoulder and said, "Dad, why can't we see her feet?" From somewhere, I replied, "well, if the front were closed, and the bottom opened, how would you know it was your grandma if all you saw was her feet?" That instant taught me that in my moment of grief, there was a perspective outside of my own. To him, it was a perfectly reasonable question but to me, it made me smile and somehow cheered me up. As I sat there and listened to the mass being performed by a friend of the family who is a Jesuit, I could not help but think that I was the only one in the building that thought that she was really gone and was no more. As he spoke of her leaving the world and we will all meet her again, I couldn't help but be rather put off by the thought of her in such a state. They were singing songs of everlasting life and blah blah but instead of that giving comfort to me, it rather horrified me. I know that most, if not all can't imagine how thinking that this life was all there was is comforting, but to me, it absolutely is. I had no fear of my dear grandmother her being tortured, or being cursed to "watch over us" for eternity. She was not aware of anything anymore and that is just fine with me. As I helped carry her coffin to the hearse with my other cousins afterwards, the feeling of comfort that not believing gave me was far more than any I experienced in the 10 previous funerals where I did believe in an afterlife. This was the second time I served as pallbearer for a grandparent. Two down, two to go.

Thanks for reading.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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19-01-2015, 09:01 PM
RE: This last weekend
That is so very difficult. My condolences to you and your family.
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20-01-2015, 01:53 PM
RE: This last weekend
First of all, my condolences on what is obviously a great loss you are suffering.

Funerary rituals, especially Catholic ones, seem to me much less about giving the deceased a proper send-off, and more about an attempt to get the living to re-up their contracts with the almighty over the whole afterlife thing. That's what all their power hinges on, the belief that we will have another life after we die. That's the keystone of the whole con game. So when someone dies, especially someone who was devout, they really have to hit home the message of heaven, the person looking down on us, etc. It's not really the person's fate in the afterlife we're concerned with, it's our own. To me it cheapens the person's life, that their death basically becomes the newest line in the cosmic sales pitch.
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20-01-2015, 02:10 PM
RE: This last weekend
Sadcryface

Hug

I'm sorry it was so tough.

"If there's a single thing that life teaches us, it's that wishing doesn't make it so." - Lev Grossman
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20-01-2015, 02:32 PM
RE: This last weekend
Sad

Hug
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20-01-2015, 02:37 PM
RE: This last weekend
My condolences and thank you for sharing.

I think I may have mentioned previously my mother passing and being there when she passed. But while I felt enormous grief - we were very close despite her being a JW - there was some comfort for me knowing that she was gone. Her suffering was at an end. And in some small way, so was mine, knowing that this chapter of my life was at an end.

I hope you can come to think and feel this way about your grandmother.

"I don't mind being wrong...it's a time I get to learn something new..."
Me.
N.B: I routinely make edits to posts to correct grammar or spelling, or to restate a point more clearly. I only notify edits if they materially change meaning.
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20-01-2015, 03:11 PM
RE: This last weekend
I don't know you yet, but thank you for writing this post. I'm so sorry to hear that you went through this.

I lost my great-uncle around this time last year, and even just writing this I'm still tearing up. It is incredibly hard to lose a family member you were close to and esteemed, and sometimes even more so when you don't believe in the things being said during the funeral or afterwards by family members.

I was lucky - the rabbi who performed the service was more interested in talking about Red's exuberant life - and if a word ever described a human being, exuberant was Red's - than he was about discussing the afterlife or any other related thoughts.

It sounds like you found a measure of serenity in the moment. I hope it helps you through the grief that always follows for a time afterwards.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Albert Camus
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