In thinking about having a funeral one year after my beloved husband died, many doubts arose. How could we gather friends and family after this much time passed? Would anyone come to the service?
We were able to put together a lovely celebration of Dan’s life. And many people came out to remember him. After the funeral was over, a strong feeling of relief that came over each of us.
Our adult children, one after another, said, “We did it!” with a sense that the impossible had been accomplished. We honored him in prayers, stories and songs. Between the graveside service and the impromptu storytelling at our home afterward, it felt like we captured his spirit as well.
Giant relief that after one year into our grief we created ceremony and celebration that was memorable and meaningful—a day to remember always.
Our exhaustion grew over several days. We gathered the night before the funeral, the graveside service at the cemetery, the reception after the funeral, and we gathered the day after the funeral for a child-centered family Easter celebration.
Multiple events in a row brought an exhaustion that felt like the edge of sickness; the kind of exhaustion that can be pre-illness,
I ducked out early from the Friday night gathering to get a full night’s sleep.
That decision made all the difference.
Still, it is hard to make those choices since grief carries its own exhaustion that arrives intermittently. It can be hard to know when to ignore the fatigue and when to take it as a sign to slow down.
3. Over Stimulation
Right behind fatigue comes the thing that might just keep you awake when you are needing to sleep: over stimulation.
I had the expert help from our adult children; more help than most have, I think. Yet, thoughts and wonderings persist. Did we remember the honorarium for the deacon? (we did!); What about the rose petals for the children? (yes, we had them!); And the prayers for the grandchildren? (oops…forgot to print them! Thank goodness for millennials who can read documents on their phones!)
After the service, and later the reception, we kept saying to one another, “We made it through! We did it!”
We began with longing that the service and reception would honor Dan in the way we felt he deserved to be honored. It turned out to be better than we had hoped it would be.
A day to remember always.
4. A New Peace
It is said that funerals are for the living. For those left behind.
Beyond the feelings of uncertainty before and the feelings of exhaustion afterwards, a new feeling sneaked its way into my heart.
A quiet feeling of peace.
Did closure arrive after we closed the grave? Did the prayers remind us of the spiritual tenets that we’ve carried from childhood about death and dying? Or, is it a sense of peace that our beloved sends to us from the great beyond?
We can never be sure.
The new sense of peace brought with it deep feelings of gratitude.
Gratitude is the strongest feeling: for the gifts that Dan brought to the world…our world…innumerable gifts; gratitude for the release from pain that death brought him; gratitude for a good-bye that was worthy of a great, great man.
5. A Sense of What Now?
In the moments after Dan’s death, the “what now?” was answered with planning for Dan’s cremation. The next “what now?” was answered with showing up and honoring Dan’s body through the cremation ceremony. After that, the “what now?” was answered with one tiny (yet HUGE) word: wait.
We waited for eight months, as Covid required.
The next two months were filled with planning the burial and celebration of life for Daniel Paul Neff, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend.
On April 16, 2022, at Pierce Brothers Crestlawn Cemetery, we completed the tasks.
The word “now” might be our clue.
Be fully “in” each now-moment that comes.
For now, that is enough.