My grandmother’s funeral

February 2, 2018 was my grandmother’s funeral.

If you have been reading my blog and have playing at home, you may realize that I have attended 3 funerals within a 30 day period.

I have heard that 2018 is a year of rebirth and in order to have rebirth, there must be death.

But this, along with the fact that almost daily, it seems like someone on my Facebook newsfeed will lose someone they love, it all does seem excessive.

I managed to go 15 months after Bryon’s death with no funerals.   This span of time did not seem unusual.  My friends still seem to be in the feel-good era of engagements, weddings, new houses and babies.  Funerals are much less common.

First my friend Andy died and I traveled to Maine to say good-bye and to show support to his wife, who is a dear friend of mine.

Then one of my best friends fathers passed away unexpectedly and I attended his funeral to show support to my friend.

Around the time of my best friends fathers death,  I got the news that my grandmother who had been recently ill, made a turn for the worse.  I decided I wanted to see her but I was going to wait until my parents were able to make the trip from Maine to Boston (really the town of Woburn, which is what I call “Boston-ish”).  I wanted to say good-bye but I wasn’t sure if I could handle being around a dying person after seeing Bryon die. I am sure I would  have been fine but I wanted my parents to be there just in case.  Plus, I would have my daughter and it would be easier to have my parents around (though I am sure my aunts and uncles would have helped watch her).

I never got to say good-bye to my grandmother.

She died the day before I was to make the trip.

I felt guilt but I know that it meant I wasn’t meant to be there, for whatever reason.

My grandmother’s death isn’t completely unsurprising.  She was 95. We were lucky to have her for as long as we did.  But the illness that led to her demise was brief.

Like any death, the world stops for everyone close to the deceased.  My family, who lives in the Northeast and in Florida, made our arrangements to get to Boston.

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My Nana’s wake was at the funeral home where all the Irish in South Woburn go to.  (Though ironically my grandmother was not Irish.  She was a French-Canadian who married into an Irish family).  I have often made jokes that I grew up at this funeral home.  This is the place where I have said good-bye to all four of my grand-parents, two uncles, a whole bunch of great-aunts and great-uncles as well as relatives of those married into our family.

We did everything that a good Boston Irish-Catholic (or partially Boston Irish-Catholic family) does.  

We comforted one another.  

We shared stories.  

We took comfort in those who stopped by to pay their respects.

We lamented that it was a shame we only see each other at funerals.  (We need to change that!) 

My cousins 8-year-old daughter entertained (and wore out) my three-year-old daughter.  They were the reminder that while it’s sad to say good-bye to those who leave us, we also get to embrace the newer younger family members.

We saw many distant family members who remarked that it felt like yesterday that I was my daughter’s age.  

My cousins and I spent time together and went out for Boston Chinese food and drinks (which will be it’s own post).

My grandmother’s death was different than my other three grandparents death because she is the last.  The last grandparent and really my last connection to the town of Woburn.  All of my relatives have spread out.  I spent so much time in this town.  In some ways, this town felt more like my hometown than my actual hometown of Billerica, MA.  

It is truly the end of an era.

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My daughter seemed to take her great-grandmother’s death well.  She understood that Nana was in Heaven with Daddy.  That didn’t surprise me as her father died when she was so young. I recently read Ariana Huffington’s book “On Becoming Fearless” which had a chapter about fearing death. She brings up Rory Kennedy, whose father Bobby Kennedy was assassinated while she was in utero.  She said that Rory Kennedy has stated that she has always known death due to the absence of her father.  Since Bryon died one month before our daughter’s second birthday, she knows what death is.  She knows that she doesn’t get to see her father in his earthly form and that means that she completely understands that she will never see Nana in her earthly form again.

On the way to the wake, it dawned on me that Bryon had had a closed casket but my Nana would have an open casket.  I told my daughter that she might see Nana and it will look like Nana is sleeping but Nana is really in Heaven with her Daddy and my daughter seemed to accept my explanation.

I know I am probably in the minority in my family.  I was actually happy for my grandmother.  I think of all of the people I have said good-bye to during my 39 years and I can’t imagine how many people she had to say good-bye to in her 95 years.  She gets to be reunited and I am sure it was one heck of a reunion party.

I am also hesitant to write this next paragraph because I don’t want my feelings to be misconstrued.   I want to be clear that I hope I live long enough to see my daughter grow up and meet my grandchildren and maybe even my great-grandchildren. I hope I live a long life, marry again, travel the world, that I get to help a lot of people and make a difference.

But when my time comes, I know Bryon will be there, kind of like Leo and Kate. But instead of the Titanic, it will be the latest cruise ship. And knowing that I will be reunited with Bryon (as well as everyone I have ever loved) takes away the fear of death.  And it will be one heck of a reunion party.

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I felt happy for my Nana because she is reunited with my grandfather, her son, her parents, her siblings as well as a lot of relatives and friends.  She got her Kate and Leo moment.

I felt emotionally alienated experiencing this loss.  Because I did not reach the expected level of sadness as everyone else in my family.

Losing my grandmother was sad but burying my husband in my 30s was much, much harder for me.  

I began to wonder if I have become cold and unfeeling or if I just have a different perspective?

My life changed forever 23 months ago.  The first five months of those 23, I lived in fear, desperation and in complete survival mode.  After that, I experienced grief beginning with raw grief.  Raw grief is an exhausting roller coaster.  At my grandmother’s funeral, I began to wonder if I have grieved all of the grief out of me.

Because it feels like I have nothing left.

I am all out of grief.  Like, take Air Supply’s “All out of Love” and replace “Love” with “Grief” and then completely change the lyrics of the song so they make sense and it is just like that.

I feel like my experience can be compared to cold medicine. Grieving is like the feeling you have when you are on cold medicine.  You are unwell (at least emotionally but grief also can take a physical toll on you) and you are in a fog.  Then you start to feel better. The worst is over but that fog is replaced with that post-cold medicine feeling where you are still tired, your head feels kind of hollow and you feel what you imagine to be strung out.  

While I felt like a horrible person for feeling this way, I came to a very important realization.  And maybe it was meant for me to realize this at my grandmother’s funeral, as each other the three funerals has taught me a lesson.

My grandmother’s funeral taught me that I am a survivor.  The worst of my grief is over and I am stronger.

And provided that my daughter- and any other children I may have- outlive me, then I have already lived through the worst days of my life. Sure, bad things are still going to happen.  But I survived Bryon’s death and that means I can survive anything.

Because life is only temporary.

My grandmother’s obituary.

And while I don’t know what my grandmother’s thoughts were on The Righteous Brothers, I know Bryon liked them.  And this weekend I heard this song for the first time since Bryon died and it just seemed to fit how I have been feeling lately.  So I am going to end on it.

 

 

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Second funeral of 2018

Last week I wrote about attending the first funeral since Bryon had died.

Today I attended my second.

Unlike Andy, I did not know the deceased well. He was the father of one of my best friends. I saw him at their wedding and at the kids birthday parties. He made some delicious chicken wings. It was clear that they were important to him and that he loved them very much.

I feel for my friend. I might know grief but I do not know what it is like to lose a parent. Three of the girls in our tribe have lost a parent. My Chicago best friend and my Maine best friend have lost their mothers at a young age as did my Maine’s best friend’s husband (The Scientist).

And of course, my daughter is also a member of this club.

I have lost three of my grandparents (and my grandmother isn’t doing well currently) and when I lost them, I felt that the memories of them slip further into the past. I feel like there is an active past and a distant past.

The active past consists of people who are alive and memories with those people and the events were probably more recent. Memories like your friend’s wedding last year or that time you went to Chipotle with a friend and your daughter smeared guacamole all over her face. (That might actually be everytime).

To me, the distant past are the memories that are centered around a deceased person, like the times when my Papa Crowley brought us to Horn Pond (pronounced Hond Pond) to feed the ducks or the conversations I had with my Grandma Sullivan.

Of course, some memories fall in the middle of the spectrum. Bryon and my wedding should be in the active past because it was only five years ago and so many of the people who were there are around. But Bryon was a pivotal player in those memories and he is gone. Therefore my wedding feels like it is more in the distant past than the active past.

Again, my parents are still here but I imagine that the transition of the parent going from the active past to the distant past is more pronounced and painful than that of a grandparent. It must make one’s childhood feel further away.

I also feel that the process of losing a parent ages you in a way. Not physically, but the pain gives you more wisdom.

I could be totally off of the mark. And if I am, please tell me. I want to increase my understanding.

Anyway, I digress.

I spent the afternoon at the funeral home. It is important to support the people you care about. I know it meant the world to me that people came to pay their respects when Bryon passed. The grieving need to know that they are loved and are supported.

I may not have known the deceased well but I am thankful that he lived.

He loved his daughter and grandsons. They are his legacy and my daughter and I greatly benefit from his legacy. His daughter and grandsons enrich my life and my daughter’s life.

It’s a great reminder that we are connected. The people in our lives and the events in our lives connect us all. So take time to appreciate everyone in your life, even if you don’t know them well. They are in your life for a reason, even if their role wasn’t a big role.

A January trip to Maine

I don’t know exactly when I met my friend Andy.  I actually met him because I was friends with his wife.  I met his wife (I am going to call her The Scallop Divers Wife because I try not to use living people’s names in my blog) in 2004 when I joined the woman’s council at St. Joe’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth, Maine.  I only know it was 2004 because I had another friend that I became friends volunteering for a certain political candidate and she noticed that we both went to 11 am Mass.  My political friend and I decided to join the woman council and we both became friends with The Scallop Divers Wife.  I probably met Andy at a church function or maybe I met him at his house.

I used to enjoys visits to Andy’s house.  I could count on funny stories and lively political discussion.  Periodically I would house and dog sit when they went away.

I moved away from Maine in 2009 because Bryon and I had been dating a year and things were serious.  I always wanted Bryon and Andy to meet.  I know they would have gotten along. Also, Bryon had dreams of being on Deadliest Catch and I told him I could get him on a fishing boat on the Maine Coast.

But sadly, the visit never materialized.

Then Andy got sick.  Cancer.  He was given a six months to live.

Like Bryon, Andy fought.  He turned a 6 months life sentence into three years.

Shortly after Bryon passed, Andy’s niece passed in a car accident and he and his family traveled to Vermont for the funeral.  It was about three hours away but I made the trip to see them the day before the funeral.  I knew I had to make this trip because I didn’t know how much longer Andy would be here and I didn’t want to have any regrets.  I knew that this might be the last chance I got to see Andy.  After Bryon died, all the regrets I heard were from people who said they wished they knew him better.  No one said they regretted visiting him.

During that visit, Andy and I didn’t know what to say to each other but it wasn’t awkward.  I remember him being kind to my daughter who was two at the time.  He was too weak to socialize and I spent the afternoon catching up with The Scallop Divers Wife.  She gave me a lesson on cooking lobster and they sent me back to New York with some Maine lobster.

Andy and I had a few conversations on Facebook Messenger.  He said it was hard to read my blog because he knew his wife was going to be going through the same thing.  I admit that it was hard to discuss death with a dying man.  I wondered if Bryon had similar thoughts.  I will never know because Bryon couldn’t speak.

Around Thanksgiving I got the news that Andy’s cancer had spread to his brain.  We had a Facebook Messenger conversation.  He told me he wasn’t ready to die, his sons were so young.  I really didn’t know what to say.  It ended up being our last conversation.

In the beginning of December, I found out that there was nothing more that could be done and Andy would be going to Hospice.  Luckily he was able to go home.  My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife.  I remembered the pure agony of waiting for your husband to die.  I only had 24 hours of that agony from the “there’s nothing more we can do” conversation (though for me the words were “your husbands heart is going to stop beating today”)  and my friend’s agony was open ended.

When I found out Andy was going to Hospice, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to his funeral.  I work in oncology data and I know many patients don’t last long in Hospice.  I was out of personal time at work for the year.  I was beside myself thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to Maine and be there for the funeral.  I remember who showed up to pay their respects when Bryon died and I wouldn’t get to be one of those supporters for my friend.    I decided that if I was meant to be there, it would all work out.

But I was also nervous that this was up in the air because this would be the first funeral I would attend since Bryon’s.  That is a huge first for any widow.  I have a tendency to obsess about things that potentially give me anxiety.  But there was no doubt that I would work through it to be there for my friend but I was having a hard time channeling this nervous energy.

Andy’s family got one more Christmas with him and he passed on December 28, 2017.

I confirmed with my manager at work at my personal time for 2018 become effective at the New Year and then I made arrangements to go to Maine for the funeral.  Ironically my parents were in Albany so their trip was cut short but they were fine with it because I was bringing my daughter to Maine and they got to spend time with her there.

And my daughter likes playing play-doh with her Grammy.

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Play-doh at Grammy and Pappy’s House

I went to the wake (I guess outside New England they call it a viewing?) to pay my respects and visit with The Scallop Divers Wife.  I didn’t stay long because I didn’t recognize anyone else and I knew The Scallop Divers Wife was busy greeting people.  It’s a long night.

I ended up grabbing dinner with another good friend.

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Finn’s Irish Pub- Ellsworth, ME

I forgot to take a pic of us together, but here is a pic from us last summer at my best friends wedding.  This was also in Maine but it was much, much warmer.

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Williams Pond, ME, July 2017

The following morning I made the 45 minute drive to Bar Harbor for Andy’s funeral.

On the drive I was thinking about how I have been widowed long enough that I am not the newest young widow in my circle of friends.  Time has a way of slapping you in the face like that.

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Trenton, Maine

Andy was a well-liked guy and the church was full.

I tend to think I am invincible when it comes to funerals.  I attribute it to my Boston Irish upbringing.

I will mention something important.  It was during Andy’s funeral that I realized that despite being angry at God that I want a Catholic funeral when I die.  It’s how my grandparents went out.  It’s how my uncles went out.  It’s how Bryon went out.  And while God might be a hateful jerk who took my husband from me, I am not going to let him take something from me that is part of my heritage.  Andy and I had had several conversations where he challenged my current views on God. I tended to get angry at the other 99.9% of the people who did that, Andy got a pass.  It’s hard to stay mad at him and I also wasn’t going to argue with a dying man about God.  But as the realization about my own mortality hit me, I just said to myself, “Well played, Andy.  Well played.”

I was fine until the moment the funeral started.  Seeing The Scallop Divers Wife have to walk down after the coffin.  I had walked in 5 funerals before Bryon (three grandparents and two uncles) and nothing can prepare you for that moment for when it’s your spouse.  My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife and three sons.  I felt shaky during the processional and I asked Bryon to be with me (something I don’t tend to do.  I figure he comes and goes when he feels like it) and suddenly I had my Boston Irish composure back.  I don’t doubt for a second that he was there with me.

Though The Scallop Divers Wife wins the award for being the strongest.  She got up and gave a beautiful eulogy.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

I had asked The Scallop Divers Wife if she was okay if I wrote this post.  She said she was curious about reading it from my point of view.  I hope I don’t disappoint her because I don’t remember the details.  I was a jumble of emotions that day and my account is likely to come across as self-absorbed.  No widow(er) means to be self absorbs.  We just have lots of emotions to sort out.  And once we get those emotions sorted out, we hit another widow milestone and it brings up a whole new batch of feelings.

The Scallop Divers Wife is my friend and I hope she will be through the rest of our lives We will always be bonded by the fact that we are young widows.  I am far enough into my widowhood journey (17 months and 5 days) to know that the funeral is like a wedding.  Both are important days but while a wedding is just one day of a marriage, the funeral is just one day in the life without a loved one.

And just like our wedding day, we will remember our husbands funeral for the rest of our lives.

Andy’s Obituary

Andy’s appearance on the Steven Colbert Show

A third birthday fiesta

We celebrated my daughters third birthday this past weekend.  It was a small celebration with the Albany family, but we are still a pretty crazy bunch.  Celebrations like this are very bittersweet without Bryon, but we still had a good time.  I was tired, but very thankful for those in my daughters life.

 

Remembering the final farewell

One year ago today, we said our final farewell to Bryon.

I wore a black dress and my daughter wore a white dress with black polka dots.

I remember meeting at the funeral home with immediate family and the pallbearers.  A few friends drove up from New York City and came by since they were not able to make it to the calling hours.  I remember that I forgot to put on my pearls that Bryon had bought me in St. Thomas on our honeymoon cruise.  Several friends offered me their pairs of pearls, but I declined.  I figured I wasn’t meant to wear them.

I remember everyone saying their final good-byes at the funeral home before heading to the church.  Top Gun had been paused during the reading of the Prayer of St. Francis but the promo music magically came on as everyone went up to the coffin for the last time.

I remember the funeral.  The music.  The five priests that were there.  The eulogy given by his best friend.  It was funny and mildly inappropriate which is what Bryon would have wanted.  The only thing I don’t remember was seeing who was there.  I just remember that the church was full.  

I remember the wristbands that were given out.  Bryon said (hypothetically) that if he died that he wanted an open bar and he wanted wristbands given out at church because he didn’t want freeloaders showing up to his reception.  He only wanted true mourners there.

I remember that I didn’t cry.  It’s the only funeral I have never cried at.  I could go to a funeral of a complete stranger and cry. I remember feeling guilty.  I remember mentioning this to my daughter’s godmother.  I asked her if I was a horrible person but she said that I had been crying for five months.  

I remember thinking about how odd it was to be the widow.  I remember watching my grandmother’s as widows.  To be getting in and out of the limo with their children.  I was getting in and out of the limo with my daughter.  But my grandmother’s children were all grown.  My daughter was not yet two.  I remember changing her diaper in the limo after Mass while waiting for the procession to move to the cemetery.  I remember that my daughter fell asleep on the way to the cemetery and my father stayed in the limo with her during the time at the cemetery.  

I remember that we had our reception at one of our favorite bars, McGeary’s.  I remember seeing my friends and family there, all dressed up.  Lunch was served and I remember my daughter trying to eat the butter by itself.  I remember talking to my cousins and aunts and uncles who came in from Maine, Massachusetts and Florida.  I drank Bailey’s on ice. I remember Bryon was toasted and we sang along to his favorite songs.  I remember people coming up to me saying that even though it sounds weird, it was the best funeral that they have ever been to.  

And now it has been one year since that day.  Feels like a lifetime ago and like it was yesterday.

Getting pretty for him…one last time.

Wed-Thurs

August 24-25, 2016

It was late August and Bryon had been sick since March and I clearly had ignored my appearance.  I hadn’t worn makeup during that time.  My nails were bitten off due to the stress and I don’t want to think about how many gray hairs I had.  There were several instances over the course of Bryon’s five month stay in the ICU where he came very close to dying and I was too afraid to leave his side and went days without showering and I would wear the same clothes for days. Before this health crisis, I never would have dreamed of going more than 24 hours without showering or wearing dirty clothes but I learned that showering and clean clothes were actually optional.

Amidst planning Bryon’s funeral/farewell party, I realized that I needed to do something about my appearance.  I was talking to my good friend (and daughter’s godmother) and we both agreed that I shouldn’t look like a tired widow and that Bryon would actually be hurt if I didn’t get all prettied up for him and his farewell party.

My hair needed the most help but I was dreading going to the salon I had been going to.  Normally I don’t mind small talk but the last thing I wanted was to have to talk to the hairstylists.  I hadn’t been to salon in awhile and I know I would be asked about what was going on in my life.  I did not want to talk about how my husband died.  I shared these concerns with my friend and she told me not to worry.  She said she would call her salon and get me an appointment with the instructions to just do my hair.  The owner of the salon did my hair and she did talk to me but did not bring up Bryon’s death.  We chatted about how we knew mutual friends and we talked about our kids.

I decided to get acrylics put on my nails even though I hate them because Bryon liked my nails long.  He didn’t care if my nails are real or fake, he just liked them long.  But I honestly can’t tell you which nail salon I went to.  I have no recollection of getting my nails done but I know I had them done.  Perhaps “widow fog” (it’s a real thing, similar to “pregnancy brain”) was beginning to set in.  Keep in mind, I can remember the conversation I had with the nail tech that did my nails for my cousins wedding in Florida in 2004.  I can tell you about the conversation I had with the nail tech who did my mani-pedi in New Orleans in 2014.  But I can’t tell you which salon I went to the week Bryon died.  I just know that I got my nails done and that they didn’t do a good job because they started popping off a day or two later.

I needed something to wear for the wake and the funeral.  I had a few tired black dresses in my closet that I have worn to countless weddings and they would have worked but I felt that these events deserved their own specific event dresses.  It was weird to buy a dress for Bryon’s funeral without Bryon there.  Bryon was a “guy’s guy” but he was a stylish dresser and many times he would find clothes for me try on.  I preferred shopping with him over anyone else.  He knew my style better than I did and he was honest about how items fit.  I always valued his input.  But I was going to have to do this one alone.

I began my search at a store that is local to us in Upstate NY called Boscov’s.  For some reason I usually have good luck in that store.  I don’t know if Bryon was guiding me but I made my way straight to a rack that had black dresses with white polka dots.  Bryon always liked me in polka dots though they were my thing long before he came into my life.  I decided that I could wear this dress for the wake but I needed something more somber for the funeral.  Something that was solid black.  I did not see anything else at Boscov’s so I made my purchase and then head over to my other “tried-and-true” shopping options- Macy’s.

At Macy’s I selected a few dresses to try on but as I passed the clearance rack on the way to the fitting room, a black dress caught my eye.  It was my size to I grabbed that one as well.  I went into the fitting room and tried on my choices but they didn’t work.  I tried on the clearance dress and it fit perfectly.  This was the dress.

As I looked in the mirror, I had another “punched in the stomach” moment.  I realized that this would be last dress I would buy to wear for Bryon.   This was it.  He was dead.  There would be no more dresses.  No  more celebrations.  No more anniversaries.  No more weddings. No more fancy dinners.  No more formal nights on cruises.  This would be the last time I would get pretty for Bryon.  I cried in the fitting room.

Before I purchased my dress, I went to the toddler section because my daughter needed dresses.  My mother had bought a white dress with black polka dots that she had seen in passing knowing how much I liked polka dots.  But we needed at least two dresses, preferably three because I wanted an extra dress in case one got dirty.  It was a little hard to find a mourning dress in the little girls section but I found two black and white dresses that would work.

The last thing I needed to look pretty for Bryon’s funeral was makeup.  I hadn’t worn makeup in over five months and I couldn’t remember the last time I bought makeup before that.  So I went to the Mac counter within Macy’s.  I must have had a blank stare on my face because the makeup artist came over and asked me if he could help me with anything.  I just blurted out “my husband’s funeral is on Saturday and I don’t want to look like a tired old widow.”  He was sympathetic, sat me down and got to work picking out some simple makeup.  He said that we should skip the mascara and I agreed.  I bought the makeup and I was ready to go.  Bring on the wake and the funeral.

My crash course in funeral planning

Monday

August 22, 2016

One thing about growing up Boston-Irish is that you are not a stranger to funeral homes. When I smell an abundant amount of flowers, I think of funeral homes.  My Uncle Peter (my father’s brother) used to refer to the obituaries as the “Irish Sports Pages.”   My father always said that his father, my Grandpa Sullivan, had impressed upon him that when someone dies, you must pay your respects.  Unfortunately through the years my family has lost three grandparents, two uncles (including Uncle Peter) and many great-aunts, uncles and friends.  And each time someone died, you paid your respects by attending the wake and the funeral.

Given our ages, Bryon and I did not discuss funerals in great detail except for a two day period where we attended the funeral of a close friend’s father on one day and the funeral of his best friend’s grandfather on the next day.  Bryon was always a party planner.  When we were planning our wedding Bryon was not the stereotypically passive groom.  He was not only involved in the whole process, but he pretty much organized the whole day.  He asked for my input and what I liked and factored that in. So it didn’t phase me when he started making notes for his funeral.  I told him to write it all down but he never did.  I had to rely on my memory because who plans on dying when they are 30?  

My two friends that were with me the previous day (My daughter’s Godmother and her significant other) picked me up midmorning and the three of us drove to the funeral home.  We were all completely exhausted and still didn’t know what had hit us.  We just knew that we had to plan the best farewell party for Bryon.  A farewell party that would be legendary.

I went into the funeral planning process with four major points: Top Gun had to be playing on loop during the wake, St Francis had to be the featured saint when it came to prayer cards and hymns, his best friend had to say a eulogy and it had to be better than his Best Man speech at our wedding and we had to have an open bar reception after the funeral Mass.

At the funeral home we were greeted by the smell of flowers and the undertaker named Nick.  Over the course of the next couple of days, we would start referring to him as Funeral Nick in our conversations because we kept confusing him with our friend Nick.  Funeral Nick had a last name but I was too exhausted to remember it. (Funeral Nick, if for some reason you are reading this, I hope you aren’t offended.  You did a phenomenal job.) Funeral Nick brought us into a conference room, gave us some bottled water and presented us with a binder that was full of funeral planning options.

Over the next several hours, we discussed many of the funeral details.  We had to decide if we wanted a Thursday wake with a Friday funeral or a Friday wake with a Saturday funeral.  We had many people travelling from out of town, some as far away as Florida and Chicago so we opted for a Friday wake with a Saturday funeral.  We discussed the logistics of transporting his body from New York City back to Albany.   We discussed the transportation to the church, cemetery, and the bar that the reception would be held.  We chose the flowers.  We decided how many pallbearers to have.  We decided that obituary would be published in the local paper, The Times Union and his hometown paper, The Saratogian.  We couldn’t have Top Gun playing and a photo slideshow.  We decided that Top Gun was more important so we decided to have photo boards lining the room.  We picked out the sign in guest book and prayer cards. I poured over the binder, making my choices. I would stop and ask my friends for their input.  The three of us had a good idea on what Bryon would have liked.

Then it was time to pick out the casket. Funeral Nick showed all my options on a projector.  I felt like I had just been kicked in the stomach.  I was picking out the box that was going to hold Bryon’s bodily remains forever.  Bryon’s body was going to go into this box and this box was going to be buried underground forever.  This was and continues to be the most surreal moment of my life.

Bryon’s law partner (and close friend and Godfather to our daughter) showed up at the funeral home and it took the four of us, plus Funeral Nick to write his obituary.  I have spent many times looking at obituaries for my job and as part of my genealogy research.  I knew that these words were to sum up his life.  How we portrayed Bryon in the obituary would be set in stone for the rest of history.  This would be the document that our daughter and her children and grandchildren will read to try to learn about the person Bryon was.  We had the responsibility to choose these words carefully.  We spent at least an hour making sure everything was worded properly and that we include all aspects of his life.  We finally had a piece that we were satisfied with and it was immediately published on the funeral home’s website and sent it to the newspapers.

We left the funeral home in the middle of the afternoon.  We knew we had another important task the next day.  We would be picking out the cemetery plot.