Did I happen to mention that J.’s dad died? Probably not. The past three months have been so completely about me that, when she hasn’t been taking care of me, J. has been dealing with a lot on her own.
Her dad’s death was not unexpected. He was 94 and had been in hospital for weeks. He had long expressed a wish to die because living had become such a struggle for him. He was suffering and eventually his body gave in.
Sometimes there is relief with death–that the person does not have to suffer any longer, that the person is finally at peace. Even in these cases, any death is still sad.
J. was planning to attend the funeral on her own because I was so unwell in the week prior. Of course I wanted to be there to support her, but I wasn’t sure I could manage the exhaustion of the long drive. There was no point in being there if J. would be distracted caring for me.
Then I received my magic red blood cells and so, on Friday, J. booked a hotel room, and we made the trek together. I was glad to be able to attend. The graveside ceremony was touching and thoughtful, and I got to know J.’s dad a bit better after his death. Following the ceremony, the extended family congregated to visit and reminisce. A few hours later, J. and I started our 4-hour drive home.
I must say that going to a funeral was not easy, given what my future holds. Still, my capacity to dissociate from emotion is tremendous when I am overwhelmed. I was largely stoic and focussed almost solely on supporting others that day.
Except when the casket was lowered into the ground. That was hard. I’ll admit I was not thinking about J.’s dad at that moment; I was thinking about myself and my own funeral. I always cry at funerals, but at that moment I was teary knowing that all too soon I’d be the one going six feet under.
I too will be buried rather than cremated because cremation is not the Jewish way. I too will be laid in a casket and lowered into the ground. I have never taken fondly to the whole burial notion though. As it is, I am always cold. I envision myself shivering in perpetuity, and especially if J. forgets to provide my long underwear. Then I remember that once I am dead, I won’t feel anything anymore. No hunger, no anxiety, and certainly no cold. That helps.
As we drove home, J. started asking questions about Jewish funerals and shivas because her knowledge is limited. Our bi-cultural marriage makes this discussion all the more critical. I should have told her that I was spent, and that this would have to be a topic for another day, but instead I became short with her. We’ll have to address Jewish funerals, and many more tough subjects, in the coming months, but I had exceeded my death threshold for the weekend. Next time, I’ll explain my reluctance, and I’m sure she’ll understand. There is a time for everything.