funerals

Posted on December 7, 2012

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Another prolonged blog absence to explain. But then it has been a difficult time for us as a family. Over the past year we have had to stage three close family funerals – my brother in law’s last November, my mother-in law’s last February and then my mother’s – in September. That means our daughters have lost both grandmothers and an uncle they adored. Death has hit them (and us) squarely in the face, blasting a hole into our sense of families extended sprawl and the boundaries of kin which surround us. We face the lonely prospect of our first Christmas without those who have always been a part of Christmases past.

Grief blasts a hole into family life as each of us mourns in our own private way. On top of work, the day to day stuff which has to be done, the extraordinary time-consuming bureaucracy of probate, there is the more difficult task of reaching out to each other as a couple to make sure that we both support and give each other enough space to grieve. I have had to remind myself that the girls are grieving too, as they also sense the sadness and the partial withdrawal of their parents. For we have been busy wrapping up our own childhoods. My mother continued to live in the same rented flat that we moved into when I was five years old. All of the same furniture was still there in exactly the same place fifty years later. A thousand memories associated with every object surfaced as my brother and I tried to decide what to do with them.

There is a profound sense of endings to this year for all of us as a family. Both grannies and their homes are no longer there to visit. We will never sit and listen to all those same stories over and over again in front of a fake log fire or discuss world events, the holocaust or the cricket in front of the television. We do not have to worry about what to buy them for Christmas because there is nothing they either need nor want. And most importantly we do not have to worry about them suffering with any more pain. But we will miss them.

 With endings there is always a new beginning. With no surviving parents, we have both suddenly stepped into the void above us as the older generation. There is no avoiding the truth now that we are middle aged and likely to be next in line for the grim reaper. As each of us absorbs some of the mannerisms of that lost parent in order not to let them go, just yet, we seem to have aged and become more vulnerable overnight. And I know that our daughters sense that, with the growing realisation that they will lose us too one day. A harsh education. But one of the most important ones that family life has to offer.

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