Standing Room Only

If the measure of someone is their life celebration at a funeral home being filled to standing room only; then my colleague’s mother who passed away last week after a long illness, showed that she touched many, many people. The celebrant and family friend who delivered the eulogies were open and honest, sharing joy and sorrow with us, making us laugh and cry. I never met her, I was there to show support for my colleague, along with a large contingent of the office. We’d been supporting her during her mother’s illness, so it felt right to stand with her and the family to truly celebrate the life of someone who would send out a text message ‘Pop’ to her friends: champagne had been opened at her house, come over if you can.

I’m hopeless at funerals, I feel so much for the people at the front of the room. I can feel the tears welling up and running down my face freely. I know other people think I’m odd, particularly when I don’t know the person themselves, but I’m crying for the people that are left to make sense of the gaping hole that’s opened up in their lives. How much you love someone is reflected in how much it hurts when they’re not there with you. Watching my colleague and her brother start the whole ceremony off reading a poem together, my heart broke. They also shared pictures of her life, her family; one picture was of her hand with her three grandson’s clasping hers, I wept all over again.

Emotionally, spiritually, everyone is with us all the time – we carry little bits of each other around, always. Being able to hug and hold your nearest and dearest is a bonus no one should ever take for granted. Being so far away from my family is hard work, keeping in touch with them is easier now thanks to technology, but there are times when you just need to be with someone. There are lots of people in my life that are struggling at the moment, and I’m aware that I can’t always do much other than send them words. But when I can and if they want, I’ll hold them, let them know I’m here. They can lean on me.

I’m not sure why offering being someone to lean on is something I feel I need to do. Maybe it’s because when I go to funerals I know how it feels to be at the front, bewildered and lost, I would have given anything to have someone let me know I could lean on them. Three of my grandparents died before I was out of my teens, I’d just about made sense of my Nanny’s death, when my Granny died, then again, coming out of that, Grandad passed away. I know that my family was never the same after those few years, we’d gone from being a family unit to four people living in a house together. We lost our ability to talk, to share, to pull together.

I acted up and out, did things I’m ashamed of now. More than the usual teenage angst of ‘Look at me! See me!’ I was truly lost, swimming along on a wave of hormones and emotions, unable to articulate how I felt, because when I tried to speak, I was shut down, repeatedly. I tried to find my voice; I admitted to my parents I was jealous of my brother. I asked to not go swimming training as I had homework due. I spoke to teachers about being bullied. I spoke to teachers about wanting more work to do at school. Wanting more, but being given less. Through one person and another, I was taught that my voice didn’t matter. So I tried to make my life matter in other ways, getting into trouble so I was seen that way instead. I’m acutely aware that when you don’t pay enough attention to a child, they will make you pay attention, getting a pay-off by being shrieked at, is better than no pay-off at all. When I’m with Peanut, I try to be there completely, phone down. We will watch TV together, but we play and read ahead of that.

The repercussions of not being heard have been huge, I still struggle to find words to say how I feel. Goodness knows I can type voraciously, but ask me to speak my feelings, I clam up. Hubs has learned to be patient with me as I literally wrestle the words out of my psyche. Which is why Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art Of Asking, broke me open last month. I knew that had I read it as a teenager, my life would have been so very different. She saw me. I don’t know how to explain it any other way.

I continue to try to find the words to share how I feel. I know that Rufus will creep up on me if I don’t, I’m better than I was and this blog helps in more ways than one. But I also know that I heal a part of me every time I offer and try to help someone else heal a part of them. That’s why I cry at funerals, even when I’m leaning against the back wall.

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