The Funeral – The Final Goodbye

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 Funeral - The Last Goodbye
Nick and Claudia, Nov 2010, on the day he sold his much loved bike

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:

The Funeral - The Final Goodbye
Nick’s final rose

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.

If you haven’t already, subscribe below, so you don’t miss out on my next post and don’t forget to Like The Polished Widow on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @polishedwidow

Til next week, or maybe earlier ??

Michela xx

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26 thoughts on “The Funeral – The Final Goodbye

  1. Wow, I just came across your blog by chance today and I have been reading and wiping the tears away with every word I read. I worked with Nick at Toyota and I will never forget him or the day of Nicks funeral. Sitting upstairs in the church I had a direct view below where nick was laying – open casket. I cried with all my heart that someone so full of life was taken so soon. I still have his number in my phone all of these years later and can never delete it because it would feel wrong. I have never met you personally but I am so happy to read that you are happy which is no doubt what Nick would have wanted. Thank you for sharing your stories and allowing his memory to live on. Kind Regards Catherine Borg

    1. Hi Catherine,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me. I always love hearing from people who worked with Nick and of the impression he left behind on them. He was such a special person, larger than life!
      I too, still have his number in my phone and its something I’ll always keep. Nick is still so much apart of my everyday, even in this new phase of our life. Thank you so much for reading my blog, it means so much to me.
      Michela xx

  2. Thankyou for your blog. I just lost my husband of 13 years to Undiagnosed heart failure. We have 5 children ages 3-13. It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days. Your blog is helping me understand my feelings of numbness and all the other emotions I am feeling. I cried the entire first week, but since his funeral last Saturday it just comes in spurts. I’ve had tons of family around the clock asking how I am and I just wish they’d stop sometimes. I can’t understand how I can miss him so much and not be a complete wreck. They just say I’m stronger than I realize, but I don’t feel that way inside. If you have any words of encouragement or advice on how to deal with this I would welcome them. Kolbeyraglin@gmail.com

    1. Hi Kolbey,
      Firstly, i’m so sorry for the loss of your husband, it is still so fresh and i’m sure still a confusing time for you, working out where to go from here. I remember those days all too well. I’m happy to hear you have found my blog and have found some connection to it.
      When I was first widowed, I thought there must be something wrong with me for not grieving the way society expected, ie. crying all day and not functioning. It wasn’t until I started this blog, 3 years later, I heard from so many other widows like us, who didn’t cry 24/7, falling into a heap. Because there is no ‘right’ way to grieve, be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, know that grief can come in waves and one minute you may feel fine and the next be bawling and that’s ok. Because it really hurts and it sucks to lose your husband and father to your children.
      I’m happy to hear you have family support, that definitely helped me, but I agree sometimes I just wanted them to back off and give me space. Could you politely ask them to give you some room, instead of asking the same old, ‘are you ok?’ Understand they mean well, but they will probably not understand how you’re feeling and seeing you not crying, gives them cause for concern, bc as I say, they would probably expect that. Don’t feel bad for not crying, your husband knows you love him, the tears won’t prove anything. And I never felt strong either, whenever someone told me that, I’d cringe, thinking i’m not strong, i’m just doing what needs to be done, so I completely understand when you say this, all I can say is people mean well, sometimes they say things, that they think are appropriate, that make us widows roll our eyes. Know this will all pass, and as time rolls on, you will feel more ok, while you will never forget this time or your husband, from my own experience, I can say, time did help me with my grief. You will get through this, even if at the moment it will never ending.
      Sorry for the rant, hope some of this made sense to you, please feel free to write me anytime.
      Michela xx

      1. Thankyou for your reply. We had been together since I was 16. A true high school romance that turned into a beautiful marriage and 5 amazing children. I don’t know anything else besides being his wife. I’m almost 31 now, it’s so unfair to be a widow. And for my children to not have their daddy. I know it’s fresh still, but I don’t know how to go on in the world without him.

        1. Hi Kolbey, it is so unfair losing your husband so young. It sucks and there is no better word for it. But I promise you will survive past this time and your husband will be with you every step of the way, watching you as you raise your 5 beautiful children. It is still incredibly fresh, but take some solace in the fact, that time will move on and you will grow and change from this. I never knew how i’d make it past losing my husband, but somehow I found the strength to and I look back now and i’m so proud of how far i’ve come. I never thought that possible at your stage of mourning, be kind to yourself, feel the grief but surround yourself with people who ‘get’ you. Remember your husband will always be a major part of your life, even if he isn’t physically with you. Sending all my love xxx

  3. Michela, once again you showed strength by not punching out the nuf-nuf driver that blurted out his insensitive comment. It baffles me that there are such inconsiderate and uncompassionate people out there. He clearly had not lived or experienced life fully for him to display a lack of common human decency. My thoughts go out to you…

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thank you, yes, I guess I did show strength and restraint by not acting out, but I like to think it came mostly out of shock!
      Thanks for your thoughts and taking the time to write me!
      Michela xx

  4. Hi Michela,
    I love reading your posts. I always remember the words of the funeral director the day before my mums funeral. He told me that if I didn’t cry at the funeral that’s ok, there is no need to put on a show by crying and screaming over her casket to show people how much I love her. He was so right! For most of the funeral I was numb and had no tears. This driver should be ashamed of himself! Everyone mourns differently xxx

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. I was enraged on your behalf when I read that driver’s comment. He had no right to judge your grief. Grief is so personal and how we feel can change by the day. Sadly people are so often insensitive because they don’t know what to say. I was once told the the topic of my blog, dealing with the death of my baby, is a ‘conversation stopper’. Our society can be rubbish at dealing with death and grief. Your blog is a beautiful tribute to your husband. By being so open about grief we can help break the taboo. Much love xxx

    1. Thank you for your kind words, yes, the driver was a very young & ignorant person, who had probably never dealt with the loss of a loved one. It was the final nail, in already feeling like I wasn’t grieving the way society dictates.
      I totally agree with you, society doesn’t know how to deal or even interact with those of us who are grieving, we need blogs like ours to bring it to light, I love your blog and your header ‘Celebrating Hugo, Surviving Baby Loss, Creating Hugo’s Legacy’ it shows you aren’t as fragile as some would imagine and you are happy to talk about your beautiful boy Hugo. Starting the conversations that are otherwise left unsaid.
      Much love back to you xxx

  6. I’m so mad reading this final part about that bloody driver!!! How can someone be so insensitive can’t believe people have that nerve!!!

    You are obviously a very strong woman and your gorgeous husband will be forever proud of how you handled things after his death!

    Take care lovely

    Kate xxxx

    1. Hi Kate,
      Thank you, i’m sure Nick would be proud of how I handled the viewing and funeral, sometimes you just need to let things go. They don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The driver was just an ignorant young guy, who’d probably never experienced loss before, but still his words cut deep at the time.
      Thanks for writing me, love hearing from you here!
      Michela xx

  7. Hi Michela
    Once again l enjoy reading your posts as I relate them to when my mum passed. I cried so much behind the scenes that when mum passed (after a 5 and a half year battle) there were no more tears left and seeing her suffer so much it was a relief that she was in peace. Seriously people will never know what it’s like until they experience it themselves and very true everyone mourns in their own way. Love your posts xx

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Yep, you’re right, everyone mourns differently, but also like you, after seeing them suffer and having that emotion when they are alive, you run out of tears in the end, it’s something you understand once you’ve experience the loss of a loved one. Some people are so ignorant, like the driver.
      Thanks for reading along, love hearing from you.
      Michela xx

  8. Such an inspirational story from an independent positive young woman. Just because some people do not express themselves through crying it definitely does not mean they are not going through immense pain and suffering. It saddens me that you had to hear such a horrible thing come out of an ignorant young foolish man. Thank you for sharing your story, you are a great inspiration!

    1. Thank you for your support and for commenting. I have tried to be the best version of me since Nick’s passing.
      And the driver was just an ignorant young foolish man, that sums him up perfectly. I know in my heart how much I love Nick, both then and now and no amount of crying can justify it.
      Thank you for reading along. Appreciate your kind words!
      Michela xx

  9. You are such a strong an amazing woman and I can’t believe that such a person could have said that to you some people just don’t think before they speak! People deal with grief differently and just because u didn’t cry at that time it does not mean that u didn’t love him or care! When my grandfather passed away there were times I couldn’t cry but I did when I was ready and in my own time I still miss him and think about him everyday and I’m sure you do with nick aswell you are truly inspirational xx

    1. Thank you for commenting, yes, was a horrible experience having the driver be so insensitive and heightened what I suspected people were already thinking about me, I think thats why its stuck with me. I agree, I also cried in my own time over sometimes the strangest things. I hope you’re also feeling ok after your grandfathers passing, i’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for thinking im inspirational, im just making the best out of a sad situation.
      Michela xx

  10. I am shocked that a guy driving a funeral car could and did say something like that! I hope you later found the courage to tell his boss what a insensitive, clue-less guy he was and that he shouldn’t be doing such an important job if he can’t show proper, non-judgmental respect. A lot of widows, me included, don’t/didn’t cry in public. I suppose in time the guy will have enough life experiences under his belt to understand that, but it’s very sad that you have to carry that memory around.

    1. Hi Jean,

      I wish I did put forward a complaint, but I didn’t. I was so gobsmacked! And you’re right, he doesn’t deserve such an important job at what is a pivotal moment in the families lives. I’ve never forgotten his words and insensitivity.
      Happy to hear i’m not the only widow who didn’t cry in public!
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.
      Michela x

  11. Ah Michela – such a heart-wrenching honest account of that day. Lovely post. Although I was absolutely gobsmacked about the driver! What a punch to the gut that must have been after everything you were going through.
    I also can totally relate to to that out of body experience – I remember feeling like I was under water the whole time. And also thinking I wasn’t behaving in the way I was expected to…
    Funerals, death and the whole process just seems to be so much about society’s expectations rather than allowing the freedom to be/feel/act/behave/react in the right way for YOU!
    Well done. Another great post. xx

    1. Hi Angela!

      I know, who thought people could be so insensitive on such a day, I wonder if he even regretted saying it!
      I’m happy to know I wasn’t the only one not feeling like myself, it’s like it wasn’t me, I bet you feel the same looking back at your mums funeral.
      Thank you for reading along!
      Michela xx

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