I recently had a very different day at my mum’s funeral, a celebration of a life, and one that was quite a new experience for me. In fact, in many ways it was one of the most beautiful days I have had in a while.
My experience of funerals in previous years was not the same as this as I always found funerals overwhelmingly sad and intense occasions where I felt very uncomfortable and unsettled. I have in my life been to a number of funerals, including one for one of my younger brothers. So in approaching this recent funeral, my memories and experience were of heaviness… and yet, somewhere deep inside me this time around I felt a joy and an honour, as well as a curiosity.
My mum had passed over around 10 days before the funeral. She had been ill for 14 months and whilst there had been some intense times during this, once it was clear her body was preparing to die, it felt like a natural cycle, and one I learned a lot about in being with her during this time.
Once my mum realised she was going to die she spoke with us all individually and as a family about her own funeral; also there was time for us each to talk about and heal things that had happened in the past. I was humbled in observing her have time with different relatives and friends while she expressed all she felt she needed, and offered them each time to express to her their own feelings and perspectives on the past, and on life in general. During that time I cherished our conversations about our life together and developed a deeper understanding of her, and of my own life, too.
Once mum had passed over, in the days that followed my family and I carefully and lovingly planned the funeral based on her wishes as she had left us detailed instructions as to what she wanted, including the music, a choice to be cremated, as well as wanting us to share a cup of tea after the funeral with all her friends and relatives in celebration of her life.
On the day of the funeral I took the time to prepare for the day with a loving walk in the countryside, a hearty breakfast, a long hot bath, and chose to wear a beautiful dress I have, taking time to tend to myself lovingly, and delicately.
I then went to the florist’s and chose an enormous, beautiful smelling (with fresh eucalyptus amongst other things) bouquet of flowers as well as some large pots of fresh lavender for the place where the celebratory cup of tea was to be held afterwards, and on the way to the funeral took the flowers and lavender pots to place them where people would brush past and smell the gorgeous and delicate scents.
The short, simple service for the funeral was carried out to a room bursting full of people of all ages who had been connected to my mum during her life.
I spoke at the funeral in celebration of my mum, and also in celebration of all those who were in the room. I could palpably feel much appreciation for all those present, the parts they had played and the support they had offered at times in my mum’s life, and this was very much a celebration for me to be with them all.
As everyone shuffled out of the funeral it felt joyful to look into each of their eyes, and hug every one of them. Some I hadn’t seen for decades, some I’d never met but heard about, and others I had had more recent contact with – all beautiful people.
We then went on to the venue where the celebratory cup of tea was held. During those few hours I loved reconnecting with everyone in that room, with stories from the past, memories of my mum, and playful reminders of different stages of my own life too. It was a privilege to spend time with all of these people. It was a joy as all the while I could smell the beautiful flowers and see outside of the venue to a lake with beautiful birds gracing the skyline. I knew my mum would have loved this cup of tea and celebration.
It was also a joyful day for me as I absolutely adored my mum; she was a truly lovely lady who had graced my life in so many ways. I treasured our relationship and the life we had shared together, and on this day I reflected on this and how much fun and learning we had together, as well as the many things we had experienced together. This day was a celebration of her; of her grace, her beauty and her loveliness, and the day felt complete as I tidied up at the venue once everyone else had left.
As I walked to my car early that evening four beautiful ducks flew directly over my head, and I smiled – it was a funeral yes, but also a celebration, a completion, and end of an era. One that had been shared by many others, and one I had enjoyed in so many ways, particularly in connecting with them all over a cup of tea. I love being with people, and that day I was able to truly appreciate the loveliness of every single one of them.
By Jane Keep, UK