Oma’s Funeral

We got back from out east to turn around and head back for a funeral of my lover’s Oma.

A funeral that we were not all planning to attend, as in the kids and I would stay home.

Until we got an email saying that if we didn’t go, the family would sadly “understand” but that it was their prayer that we would all go.

So, we went back for 1 day.  We arrived Wednesday night, leaving straight after Lil’T’s last day of preschool.  Several people were disappointed that we did not go the viewing and let us know with deep sighs.  I did not appreciate being guilted into taking my babies to see a dead body of a person they didn’t really know when it was almost their bedtime and they hadn’t eaten supper.  This time I got annoyed instead of feeling guilty and giving in!

The funeral was mostly good.  Some children and grandchildren of Oma shared touching and funny stories.  She was an adventurous and mischievious woman.  She loved to tease and try new things.  She had a full life in Holland and didn’t marry until her 30s just before she moved to Canada.

She seemed to come back to that zestful personality after her husband died a few years ago.  He had ALS and she was exhausted from doing the majority of his care.  I met her just before he passed on and have enjoyable memories of a lady who joked about being able to go topless after her masectomies.   She was in her late 80s and joked? about asking out the 50 some year old man in her apartment building so she could have a date with a current driver’s license.

I really enjoyed the stories the family shared about her, especially since I didn’t know her that well.

Then the pastor got up.  After speaking for a few minutes, it was obvious even to me that he didn’t really know her.  We learned a lot more about the pastor than we did about Oma.

Of course there was the obligatory guilt-tripping and shaming of the non-church goers as well as bolstering the stereotype that all non-Christians (which would include liberal Christians and Catholics) have no hope.

We heard snide comments about women who work outside the home.  I counted three separate slams and then stopped listening.  I think he forgot that the woman he was speaking about had many different jobs in her life.  And that she actually did more than knitting and cooking.

He talked about his hatred for television.  In particular, some show about teenagers.  He went into great detail about that show and how watching it would lead to teen pregnancy.  It rather disturbed me how he talked about it and I was glad that all the kids were in the nursery.   I’m pretty sure his sermon would have a less kid friendly rating than that show.

The worst part was at the graveside.  I tuned out most of the message until he got to “Oma’s last words”.  Which apparently was a dramatic soliloquy beseeching everyone to get really involved in a good church.  He targeted half of the siblings and the majority of the grandchildren who don’t go to church and laid it on thick and cheesy.   I wondered if he was he unaware that he was speaking to a grieving family or if he deliberately used the pain and captive audience to give more pain.

Later that night, I and my father-in-law were in the kitchen.  I wanted him to tell stories about his mother, but he had other plans.  He talked about how much he appreciated the pastor’s version of “Oma’s last words” and mentioned that his mother never did talk to anyone about church that way and how nice it was that she finally got to.

I kept trying to steer the conversation to his memories but ended up listening to his views on evolution, how government should pay for private Christian schools, and how we should be careful asking questions because it may make things less peaceful.  He did praise his mother for her acceptance of things without questioning and stated that with faith one does not have to ask questions because they have something better than knowledge.

My father-in-law is very much like his mother.  They both love adventures, talking and teasing.  They love to laugh.  But I assumed this wasn’t the time for that so I let him talk.

A few years ago I would have agreed with many of the same issues.  A few years ago I might have thought that discussing not promoting Christian beliefs with public money was persecution instead of just ‘unfair’.  I would have believed that a conversation about abstract faith was more profound and superior than Oma’s conversations about how the people in our lives were doing.

I may not have been able to enjoy Dan’s awesome cousins because their lifestyles were forbidden by my church.  I may not have gotten to meet the common-law aunt who first apologized for not being married before anything else.  It may have mattered to me.

I may have paid more attention to the guilt-tripping sermon than the stories of this exuberant Oma.  That would be sad.

I’m not entirely sure I’m glad that we went, but it was good.

9 thoughts on “Oma’s Funeral

  1. atimetorend says:

    How sad to see such an opportunity missed, to appreciate and honor the memory of someone loved. It sounds like a difficult experience to go through.

  2. Ahab says:

    My condolance for Oma’s passing.

  3. Preachers always lay it on thick at funerals. I guess that they either have a good example or bad example in front of them and use it to beat the audience with.

    • prairienymph says:

      She wasn’t the example he was looking for so he talked about TV shows instead. My husband had to poke me to keep me from snorting in derision or laughing out loud at some points.

  4. It sounds like Oma was quite a special woman.

    It must have seemed a bit odd standing there as an outsider to a system that you once belonged. You are at an advantage, because you know what it was like to have that viewpoint, but they have no idea what it is like to have left the faith for good reason. That perspective shines through in the grace you had to just let your father-in-law talk. 🙂

  5. Quince says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts – it is pretty much the feelings I had about the whole event, but you summarized it so eloquently. Oma was a very special woman and I will cherish all the memories I have.

    There was opportunity and motive for the preacher to give his version of events while we’re all together. He probably figured it would be the last time he had opportunity to do so. 🙂

  6. ... Zoe ~ says:

    I’ve heard preachers carry on like that many times at funerals. It’s the reason I finally told my husband that I didn’t “believe” anymore and that I needed to discuss my funeral arrangements with him because there was no way I was going to put anyone through an evangelizing, you’re-going-to-hell kind of service. Nope, no way, nada.

    Farewell Oma and gentle hugs and warm thoughts for those who remain.

  7. prairienymph says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments. It wasn’t a sad experience at all. One of our (extended) family mottos is “we put the fun in funeral” and I usually look forward to seeing everyone and making inappropriate death jokes. (We’re Irish, but can’t drink or cry without stopping so inappropriate jokes it is.) Of course, my lover’s family is not Irish. I ate a lot instead.

    I have been thinking on how I would like my funeral to go. It does seem a little strange that the person who isn’t there should have claim on what happens.

    Last year I went to a service of a second cousin whose family wasn’t religious. She was around 17 when she died a year prior to that. Part of the service included releasing balloons. The service seemed a little awkward, like no one knew what to do. But it was a beautiful awkward. There was little mention of god and the focus was on the family acknowledging the pain and joy they had from her memories.

    Of course, what most people remember from that service was the second cousin who had transed into a woman and looked eerily like her deceased sister.

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