Funerals Don’t Come with Trigger Warnings
I’m sitting up as straight as I can on the pew while my mother sobs on my left. Justin is on my right, his hands folded in his lap.
We’re sitting in the front row. My grandmother sits on the other side of my mother. All 5′ 10″ of her in a gray pantsuit. My grandmother doesn’t cry. Not that I can see anyway. Justin later tells me that he can see it in smaller expressions on her face. A slump in her shoulders. That sadness she’s holding in. There are other tells, the way her legs buckle ever so slightly as she walks in and out of the church behind the draped casket. The force with which she clenches her hands together to pray.
But even though everyone in the church is staring at us during the mass, my grandmother maintains her composure. She doesn’t shed a single tear.
“She’s a Rock”
“She’s a rock,” my mother had said when I asked how my grandma was doing. It was my first question when she told me that my grandfather had passed away.
“That’s what your grandma wants people to think,” Justin commented when I told him. He knows my grandma through what I’ve told him about her — and also because he knows me. He’s observed on more than one occasion that I share a lot in common with my grandma. You could call it a shared unrelenting optimism. Or glittery stoicism.
“Can we get to the funeral?” I asked him. “I want to be there.”
“I’ll make it happen,” he said.
And so we drove 14 hours each way from Ohio to get back to Maine on short notice.
Our instincts to drop everything are good. My grandmother’s face lights up when we walk into the wake.
“I’ll never forget you were here,” my grandmother says, pulling me in for a hug that tells me everything she won’t show on her face.
A Polyamorous Heaven
The priest delivers a sermon about Christ and eternal life, inviting us to pray for my grandfather’s soul so that he may be reunited with all his loved ones in heaven and that we, too, may join him and all others we love in the afterlife.
All others? I wonder suddenly.
Because, you see, this is my grandmother’s second time being widowed. Her first husband died in his early 50s. And when she married this grandfather some years later, he’d also been widowed for several years. Any heaven that they’re part of will be filled with multiple loves.
The pastor knows all of this. They met at church, after all, as Eucharistic ministers. In that moment, it occurs to me that the heaven the pastor describes is rather polyamorous.
And thinking back on conversations I’ve had with others — some of them very religious — few to none have had a problem with widowed folks remarrying (provided at least a short grieving period had passed). They don’t think of this eventual reunion in heaven as awkward for all involved.
Meanwhile, nonmonogamy on Earth — especially the consensual, honest kind — is regarded by those same folks as the work of Satan.
It’s a weird thought to be having at my grandfather’s funeral, but as the pastor blesses the sacramental bread and wine, I wonder why we consider what is standard in heaven to be so far beneath us here on Earth.
My book is out!