Today’s post The Funeral – The Final Goodbye is as you guessed correctly, about the day we buried Nick. I say, we because so many people came out to send him off, it wasn’t just me alone in a cemetery somewhere. (That could have been weird!)
The day of Nick’s funeral had finally come.
The week had felt both long and short, like i’d just seen him just 10 minutes ago and 10 years before, all at once.
We had the viewing the night before, which you can read about here but, still I felt like I was having some kind of out of body experience. Probably because I was still in a bit of shock that Nick was really gone.
I was my usual self, with a side of sarcastic widow humour. I wasn’t moping around, I wasn’t crying uncontrollably, I just kept repeating to myself, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’.
I knew i’d have all eyes on me, everyone expecting me to breakdown, ‘she’ll crack at the funeral, she won’t be OK during the service, keep an eye on her…’
Maybe I was being paranoid, but all week I had people telling me, ‘it’s ok to cry ‘, like I needed their permission to mourn my husband, their way.
My family all arrived at my home that morning for moral support, helping by dressing Claudia in a blue outfit i’d purchased for her during the week.
Another awkward shopping experience when the salesperson asked where she’d be wearing the dress and I replied, ‘her fathers funeral’, only to be met with a blank look, like i’d said nothing at all !?!
I busied myself getting ready, but all I wanted was for the day to be over.
Calling on Nick to help me get through the day.
‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’.
I remember my mum telling me to put on waterproof mascara, so that my makeup wouldn’t run when I cried. I hadn’t even thought of it, but I also knew I wouldn’t need it.
Of course, i’d cried since Nick’s death earlier that week, but it was generally when I was alone at 3am. Never for long, but enough to let out some pent up emotions and feel sorry for myself.
I have never been a ‘public crier’, I never thought it was a problem, til Nick passed away and all anyone wanted was to see me crying, like it somehow would equate to how much I loved him, or how hurt I was.
I had decided to go to the church with my sister Franca and brother in law Eden, while the funeral car collected Nick parents, who also had relatives fly out from Greece. It was just easier and I wanted the support of my family around me.
We had arrived a little early to get seated, Nick’s family were already there. As I walked down to the reserved pew at the front, I saw a sea of familiar faces, nodding and watching me, as I walked by.
I felt comforted by the fact so many people had come.
While seated, I kept swiveling in my seat, craning my neck to see who was behind us, whispering to my sister.
The church was filled, but yet people were still squashing in.
Apart from our families and friends, who i’d expected to come, I was heartened to see so many of our work colleagues, neighbours and hospital staff there too.
I couldn’t help but smile, probably not the desired reaction for a widow on her husband’s funeral day, but I was happy that Nick had touched so many people, that they felt the need to come and pay their respects.
It had that effect on people, even if you only met him for a minute, he made you feel important and worthy.
In all, there were over 500 mourners at Nick’s funeral, I know this because apart from the church and car park being filled with people, there was the visitor/condolence book, which held over 500 signatures and friends told me they couldn’t sign because there were no spots left, or they couldn’t get to the book through the crowd.
Were you there ? What were your thoughts on the day?
We had decided to keep Nick’s casket closed for the funeral service, having had an open casket for his viewing. But, before the service could begin Nick’s mum started screaming that she wanted to see Nick again for the last time.
It broke my heart, seeing her up there, crying uncontrollably, asking the church helpers to open the casket.
While it wasn’t part of the plan, these things go out the window, when it can bring a little comfort to parent’s grieving.
The service began, with the casket open but, it was a blur, I don’t remember understanding much of it, it was mostly officiated in Greek Latin with the priest throwing in some English towards the end.
I spent much of the time thinking about Nick watching all this and being chuffed at the amount of people that were there! I could almost here him saying, ‘Hey Chel, did you see who’s here, not bad, huh?’
And then the service was over, we had decided due to the amount of people who had turned out, we wouldn’t be doing the condolences at the church (where you stand at the alter and you shake the hand of everyone who has come.)
This is a very European thing to do and while I understand the tradition behind it, it wasn’t something I wanted to be doing, over and over again.
Still I kept reminding myself, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day.’
And then the casket was wheeled out of the church to the waiting hearse, while traditionally the wife would walk behind it, in everyone’s rush to get out, I found myself about 16th in line behind him. I don’t know what happened, it’s one of my biggest regrets of that day.
Then it was a mad rush to get into the funeral car, to get to the burial. Due to the amount of people, there was so much confusion, luckily friends had taken Claudia with them, but I lost my family, I was being pushed and pulled and people I barely knew were stopping me to pay their respects, it was a blur of faces and people calling my name.
I rallied Nick’s parents, knowing we had to leave the church to make it to the burial, they were also being stopped along the way. Nick’s mum could barely stand, due to her immense grief. We got her into the car and her sister (Nick’s aunt) came with us, the car was full.
I had wanted my mum with me for support, but pushed aside my needs when I saw how desolate Nick’s mum was, I knew I’d be ok and could catch up with my parents later.
Still I kept reminding myself, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’.
We pulled out slowly from the church lot, people crowding the car, I imagine this is what it feels like to be rock star, so many hands knocking on the windows, not moving from the path of the car. If it wasn’t a funeral, I swear there would have been camera flashes going off!
But one of my most vivid memories, was when the car was pulling out and I saw one of my best friends from the hospital, Suzie our pharmacist, standing to the side with her husband. As the car slowly rolled past her, we shared a look, that just translated to ‘i’m sorry, this sucks.’ We didn’t need words.
She’d been there with us from the very beginning, and I knew Nick had touched her life in the most enormous way, as she did ours. We shared a bond, that continues today. That look from her, in a sea of madness, had an unexplained calming effect on me.
And then we were off, first to drive past our house to leave a rose at our door and then onto the cemetery for the burial.
I’ve kept that same rose on my dresser on top of one of my favourite photos of Nick, as below:
I’ll leave you with this final moment from that drive to the cemetery, as I sat in the front seat of the sedan with Nick’s family in the back, we had a young-ish driver who kept mostly quiet til he decided to talk to me.
I was sitting silently, staring out the window, chanting in my head, ‘it’s just one day, you can get through this one day’, when he broke my concentration to say, ‘You’re not crying huh? Mustn’t have loved him that much’.
Those were his exact words that have rung in my ears ever since. I was shocked he could say such a thing, though he may have been trying to be clever and strike up a conversation.
His words have always haunted me, as a reminder of how small minded people can be!
I was beyond sad that Nick was gone, I was heartbroken and felt so alone, our daughter would never know her father, our life plans had been erased, our world had been shattered, the man I was to spend the rest of my life with was dead and just because I wasn’t crying, did not mean these things didn’t apply to me or that I had no feelings.
I’ll leave it here for now and will continue next week with the burial.
Thank you so much to everyone reading along, sharing on social media and commenting, I love hearing from you.
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Til next week, or maybe earlier ??