That is the funeral
When you lose a member of your family, there are copious amounts of things to do. Bank accounts, wills, lawyers, house deeds, telling everyone, clearing property. Believe me when I say, I haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s overwhelming. But one of the big things that a widow is asked, pretty quickly, is “so, when’s the funeral?” Imagine the reactions of those around me when I said, “there isn’t one.”
Let me tell you our story…
When my husband and soulmate was diagnosed with his incurable illness, he immediatly made plans for the end of his life. He said to me “I don’t want a funeral.” While my first instinct was to giggle and tell him he wouldn’t know anyway, I sat back and looked at him. “Think about it” he said. “Everyone that would go, they live in the UK”. He was right. While we had some family and friends here in Australia, the entirety of our family and friend network were spread too far and wide.
Decision made. There was to be no funeral. We made the decision together that he would have a life celebration instead. A party. Now for anyone to make funeral plans and life celebration plans, it’s a tough thing to do. It can be incredibly traumatising. Imagine making your own. That’s downright brave.
He planned who he wanted there. He told me where he wanted food from. He told me what colour scheme he wanted (silver for the anniversary we’d just celebrated). He told me that I should write a eulogy from the heart. He even sorted out his own playlist of music on Spotify. I kid you not. Picture the scene. We’re in the palliative care unit. We are both curled up on a single bed. My iPad propped up between us with Spotify on. We were sharing the one set of headphones that we had with us, while making a playlist. Seriously, you couldn’t make this up.
After I lost him, I followed his instructions to the letter. The food came from Costco. I used silver as a colour (the anniversary we’d just had) and combined it with red (his Mums favourite colour). I wrote the eulogy, sharing many funny memories. I played his music. Marks mum was there. I waited for her to get to Australia before I held the celebration. Having lost her son, she hopped on a plane and flew from the UK to Brisbane, knowing her son wouldn’t be here when she arrived. I cannot imagine how tough that would have been. That took some guts.
The outcome of Marks ‘no funeral’ decision
There were varying reactions to the decisions made. Many thought it was a great idea, and decided that’s what they wanted too. Others were different.
Some thought it incredibly weird that there would be no funeral. It was considered strange that his wife, me, would not be sitting in the front pew of a chapel somewhere, listening to someone who doesn’t know him talk about him. Even when it was explained that this was his wish, the comments I continually got were “you’re not even going, but you’re his wife?
Many members of family respected his decision and trusted me to follow his plans. Over the final year of Marks life, he had gradually shared his wishes for his end of life. Everyone knew what he wanted.
Livestream a funeral
I was asked about a funeral several times and whether it would be live-streamed. Again, family respected that Mark had made a decision for himself.
I got several questions about his ashes. Mark had made his decision where they were to go, and had told close family and friends. There were still some that felt some of his ashes should come ‘home to yorkshire’. My beautiful mother-in-law knew exactly what her son wanted, and told this to those that asked.
A couple of family members were irate that they were not mentioned in the eulogy, and subsequently never spoke with me again. The family concerned is a large one and to mention everyone was unrealistic. Not all of my own family were mentioned. Those that were unhappy made the decision to step away from me.
Loss of friends
Those that were more Marks friend than mine, disappeared after the life celebration which was very sad. I felt that I ended up grieving the living and the dead. To this day, this continues. Loss of friends, is sometimes due to a misunderstanding of grief. While the friend grieves for a lost friend and goes home to their family, as a wife/widow, my life has changed forever. For a widow, it’s hard to tell friends that without sounding self absorbed and needy.
Grieving without the funeral
People have found their own way, their own niche, in which to celebrate and honour my soulmate. His brother watches anything on TV to do with the army, as that was his brothers ‘happy place’. His mum has his photo beside the bed and by the TV, always in eyeshot. His children have photos and videos of their dad to play as well as their private memories.
My soulmates best friends get together on August 30 each year and have a whiskey together. I talk to these guys too on special days. Me, I smile and laugh at the memories. His photos are everywhere in my room, his hat is on the wall and I sleep in his t-shirt. My memories will last forever
Was it the right thing to do for my husband?
Absolutely. It was his wish and I made sure that I honoured that.
Would I change any of these ‘funeral/life celebration’ decisions?
Personally, I find funerals stressful. Seeing the flowers, watching the curtain go around the coffin for the last time, it’s not an easy day. I was glad that Mark made the choices he did. Regarding a life celebration party, looking back now, if Mark hadn’t requested one, yes I’d do things differently. I wouldn’t have it.
We all have our memories and should be able to process them in our own way. For me, the life celebration was just as stressful. Making sure I knew who was coming, collecting food, and doing everything that needed to be done. The list was endless.
Instead, I would shut out the world, pack a bag and go on a long holiday. Spend some quality time, reading and writing. Walking the beaches and national parks. That’s what I would do.
Can I offer you any words of wisdom?
To be honest, not really. You will know what’s right and I’m sure you will walk the right path. Remember that you must live with the decision you make, so if in any doubt, take some extra time to think about it.