Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My Opa - Part 2

Yesterday was my grandfather's funeral. Saying goodbye is such a hard thing to do.

It still all feels a little bit surreal. Someone I have known and loved my whole life, is now gone.

I guess in one way I am lucky to have only attended one funeral prior to this, (that of an ex-boyfriend's grandfather whom I got along with very well); and in 35 years that seems to be quite rare. I have been fortunate enough to have my loved ones with me all this time... until last week.

I got the call from my mother early on Tuesday morning. In fact I was still in bed. As soon as I saw it was her calling, I just knew it was bad news. I was told that my grandfather had suffered a massive stroke on Monday night and it was worse than they first thought, with untreatable hemorrhaging from the brain - he was deeply unconscious and not expected to last the day. My uncle and grandmother were at the hospital. I called my uncle who suggested I just go to work and do all my normal daily things as there was nothing I could do that would alter the outcome. I felt confused after that call. In hindsight I can understand where he was coming from but I could not just pretend it was not happening. I phoned my mother back to get some perspective. Unfortunately, she was in Coffs Harbour on holiday with my father and would not be able to get to Melbourne that day. This, I know, was a devastating thought for her. Knowing that my mother could not be there, I HAD to go. I then called my partner and he confirmed that I should get in the car and head to the Austin, even if hesitant, at least get down there and make a decision then.

I got in the car, and from that moment I was on auto-pilot. I drove for nearly 2 hours, arrived at the Austin, ignored the 'Car Park Full' sign and drove into the underground car park, parked the car and proceeded to ask directions to my grandfather's room.

I thought I would be ok, but as soon as I opened the door and saw him lying there I burst into tears. This was the last time I would ever see him. The reality smacked me in the face as soon as I entered the room. It was a feeling I have never felt before.

I hugged my uncle, embraced my grandmother, then walked over to my unconscious grandfather and held his head and kissed his temple and whispered words of love from my mother and from me, and I then sat with them for around 2 hours before I had to call my mother to let her know her father was about to draw his last couple of breaths. "How do you know? How does anyone know?", she frantically shouted into the phone. I just knew, we all did. It was the hardest phone call I have ever made. A moment later my grandfather drew his last breath.

We see and hear stories of death every day. They never fail to sadden me in some way, but, with no disrespect whatsoever, there is often an element of disconnection when you are not directly involved with that life. It makes it no more or less sad than my loss - in fact, my grandfather lived a long and eventful life and was fortunate to have endured and experienced 87 years on this earth. Many are not nearly as fortunate and I acknowledge that. Still, I feel a sadness in relation to his death and our family's loss. I still cannot look at his photo without getting teary. He will be greatly missed.

Though I have little funeral attendance experience, I will say the service was pleasant. I'd even go as far as to say it was a 'nice' service - under the circumstances. My grandfather would probably agree.

My mother had asked me not only to write the eulogy, but to also read it at the service. I agreed instantly, however, prior to the service I had become quite nervous and anxious about the whole thing. I honestly did not believe I could get through it without falling apart.

I had words with the celebrant prior to the service to discuss proceedings and formalities. I also had words with my grandfather in the bathroom just before the service started, asking him to give me the strength to get through this tribute without bursting into tears - I told him if I cried it would set everyone off and that would not be good because I had a story to tell - HIS story!

"Hello", I think is what I started with. Anything that was not written down is now a bit of a blur. "Not a bad turn out for an old fellow", I do remember saying... but I don't remember hearing anyone laugh. My grandfather would have. I needed to use some of his dry humour to get me through this delivery. It worked and I proudly told his story, and eventually even got a few smiles and chuckles from a very tough crowd.

When Lara's Theme was played at the beginning of the service, I saw my grandfather, dancing and smiling, as if to say it was ok... HE was ok.

Lara's Theme is the name of a piece of music written for the film Doctor Zhivago (1965) by composer Maurice Jarre. It then became the basis of the song - Somewhere My Love. I thought the words were quite fitting, as though my grandfather was saying this as he danced off the stage...

Somewhere, my love, there will be songs to sing
Although the snow covers the hopes of Spring
Somewhere a hill blossoms in green and gold
And there are dreams, all that your heart can hold
Someday we'll meet again, my love
Someday whenever the Spring breaks through

You'll come to me out of the long-ago
Warm as the wind, soft as the kiss of snow
Till then, my sweet, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again

Someday we'll meet again, my love
I said "someday whenever that Spring breaks through"

You'll come to me out of the long-ago
Warm as the wind, and as soft as the kiss of snow
Till then, my sweet, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again!

I received much praise at the conclusion of the service, but I gave all the credit to my grandfather - after all, it was his life that made the story I told so remarkable.

No comments: