It’s been a little while since I’ve written because I’ve had a lot going on this past week or so. I’m not entirely sure what I want to write about, but I know I can’t stomach anymore politics, I don’t want to shove my religion in your face, and quite frankly, I’m so tired right now that I don’t even know why or how I’m typing this. Either way, I don’t want to leave you hanging or thinking I’ve disappeared, so I’ve decided to write a bit about the past couple of days.
My boyfriend’s grandfather died last week, and the funeral was Friday. Unfortunately, the funeral was in Pittsburgh, which is about a 4 hour drive for us. I had to work Saturday at 7pm, so it was going to have to be a pretty quick trip. I love road trips, but boy do I hate being rushed.
So after incorrectly Mapquesting the directions (he had the “avoid toll roads” button checked) my boyfriend started panicking because the website told him the drive was almost 7 hours. He started freaking out and saying we would have to leave by 4am to make it to the funeral. I knew something wasn’t right because we’ve been to Pittsburgh plenty of times, there’s no way it would take that long. When I figured out what was wrong, I recalculated and got it down to just under 4 hours, which was perfectly fine. After that was all sorted out, we grabbed our bags and hit the road.
When we got onto the Turnpike, I looked at our toll card and noticed the tolls had gone way up. $13.75 just to get out of Ohio. $7 to get into Pennsylvania. $13.50 to get back home (you don’t have to pay when you leave PA, and we were able to exit one exit earlier than where we got on to save $.25). If I remember correctly, it was almost double what we paid the last time we made the trip. I knew it went up, but geez!
The drive wasn’t bad, it snowed a little, but there really wasn’t a lot of traffic or tie-ups, so it was pretty much smooth sailing all the way. We made it to the hotel, got ready, and were off to the funeral home.
Mind you, JT and I have been together 5 1/2 years, but there are still a few elusive family members I haven’t officially met yet. They’ve all seen my name and face on social media, but that’s about it. JT’s uncle came up to introduce himself, and of course my social anxiety kicked in. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to say it, either I’m JT’s girlfriend or JT is my boyfriend, so it came out, “Hi! I’m Mariah, JT’s boyfriend!” I thought the rest of the family was going to bust a gut. JT’s sister thanked me because she said that she was about to start bawling from her built up emotions and instead I made her laugh. I didn’t live that down the rest of the weekend, and I’m sure it will be a joke for years to come. Good thing I have a great sense of humor too!
After the slightly awkward introductions, there was a short memorial service and then it was off to the church for the real funeral. As my followers know, I’m a Buddhist now, but I wasn’t always. This was the first time I’ve set foot in a Methodist church in about 12 or 13 years. The pastor said a lot of good things and then we sang a few hymns. I forgot what it was like to sing church hymns. I grew up in a Catholic choir, so I’d done my share of singing in church, but it really felt good to do it again. The teachings of the church don’t appeal to me so much, but the beauty of the togetherness really does something.
We drove to the cemetery for another small service there and I realized I’d forgotten something. In our haste to leave that morning, I had put on my sweater, grabbed a matching shawl and ran out the door. I didn’t think much about standing outside, just bolting from car to building. I didn’t have any kind of a real coat. The cemetery chapel wasn’t heated and it was about 24 degrees. Thankfully it was a short service! I did learn that my shawl is surprisingly warm though! As long as you don’t catch a draft underneath, it gets the job done!
Back at the church, the uncles busted out guitars and sang some of their dad’s favorite songs. JT’s dad was catching a cold, so he wasn’t up for much singing, but we all had fun just watching enjoying the performance. They are a musical family, so you can’t go wrong with a free show.
We spent some time with the family, and then all of us 3rd generation folks went back to the hotel. We grabbed some drinks and had our own little party. JT fell asleep pretty early, so I hung out with his sisters, had some beers and decided to go play Cards Against Humanity in the hotel lobby where we were joined by a few folk from another funeral party. Before we knew it, it was 5am. I knew I needed to get some sleep, I had to be to work in 14 hours and we still had a big day ahead.
I got up after about 3 hours, ate breakfast, and got ready for the day. We went back to JT’s grandpa’s old house and spent some time there. We shared stories and looked at pictures and laughed a little. JTs dad took us all out for lunch, and then we had to start our journey home.
When I say I went to Pittsburgh this weekend, friends and co-workers keep asking me what for expecting something fun. When I say I went for a funeral, they get uncomfortable and apologize. The truth is, there is no apology needed. This weekend’s funeral was exactly what a funeral should be. Certainly there were tears and sadness, but overall it was about celebrating life. I never got to meet Papa J, but I heard stories and saw pictures, and I could feel the love outpouring from his family this weekend. Everyone had a story or a memory to share, and despite the sadness, I would say there were more laughs and smiles than tears. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone, but really it’s not goodbye. Every time you see someone slurp their soup a certain way, or hear a comment about someone walking by that triggers that memory in you, that person is there. When you are about to criticize a person and you stop to ask yourself “What would Papa J do?” you are consciously keeping that person in your heart. Our bodies aren’t the end of us, we leave a legacy.
The most important thing we can do for a person after they pass is to keep their memory alive. Of course you’re going to be sad for a while, that’s natural. The truth is you can’t grip that sadness too tightly. Let it meld and bubble over for a while, but then you have to let it go. Let that person live on through you and you will never be lonely a day in your life. I love when memories of a lost loved one find their way up to the surface and surprise me. I know that person still lives, somehow.
All I know is I want my funeral to be as happy of an occasion as possible. Just like Papa J, I want people to play music, share stories, and laugh! Crying won’t bring me back to life, but remembering will. I’m really glad I got to be there for JT and his family this weekend. It meant just as much to me as it did to them. Life is about finding the good despite the bad, and I’d say we did that. RIP Papa J, and thanks for the memories!