So...funerals. As a child and even a teenager and young adult I didn't understand the point of funerals. I felt that we, as attendees were probably intruding on what should be an intimate time of grief. Funeral homes were depressing and the services always seemed so sad to me. I couldn't understand the point of doing something so painful as planning a funeral service when one is already grieving. I never knew what to say or even how to feel. If you are a Christian, there's the paradoxical view that although we are sad the person is no longer with us, we believe they have moved on to a heaven that is joyful, eternal, and filled with the love of Christ. We are supposed to be reminded that as Christians we will enter into that Kingdom one day and be reunited with that loved one we held so dear. So essentially the tears and sadness are our selfish desire to keep that person here with us.
That's a lot easier to deal with when the person who has passed away is 90 and has lived a full life. That person may be in failing health or on hospice or he may pass peacefully in his sleep. I remember two sets of great aunts and uncles and their deaths. It was very sad when the first spouse died, then the remaining spouse passed away shortly after and there was almost a tangible sense of relief. We believed them to be together once again, the heartache erased and their physical burdens taken away. We had such fond memories of them, and hoped they were in a better place.
But Jonah was a baby. He was 7 months old. He had just begun to live. I attended to his every need. I never left him with another caregiver. I was never frustrated with him or wanted time away from him. I have few memories of him and since he had developmental delays, I don't even have a picture of his smile. I try to cement that sweet smile with the tiny dimple into my memory but I know it will fade. The feeling of holding him, of his soft skin, his warm downy head and his soft spot, his cheek against my cheek, nuzzling his neck, nursing him and caring for him; I know these memories will become less clear as time goes on. I have beautiful pictures and one video of terrible quality to remind me that he was real, that my baby was here. For 7 months I loved him from the depths of my heart and soul. I would have done anything to help him be healthy. I would have done anything to keep him here.
And back to funerals...while as a younger person I didn't understand the value of funerals, I do now. The people who came to Jonah's visitation with love and sadness pouring out of their hearts for us allowed us to feel that tiny bits of our grief were being taken from our shoulders. Maybe we arrived with 1000 lb. sandbags of grief. Even though our loved ones could only take the few grains of sand they could carry, the burden was lifted slightly. The love was tangible. The support invaluable.
As Catholics we celebrate a Mass of Resurrection. The idea is that we are remembering the promise of baptism, the promise of Christ's gift of eternal life. My heart was breaking as we revisited the baptism of Jonah only 3 short months ago. When we promised to raise him in the faith, we had a lot longer journey in mind. Grief is strong and there is little I remember of that Mass, but I know it was beautiful.
With my crisis of faith in full swing, I hold on to the memory of Jonah's baptism and funeral, and hope for his future in Heaven. I try to visualize the potential glory and beauty he is already beholding. I try to see him in the arms of my mother, who passed away three years ago. I try to imagine him frolicking with our baby we lost to miscarriage, and with the babies my friends have lost to this world. It's a difficult concept for me, a pragmatic thinker with tendencies toward cynicism and skepticism.