A Personal Death - Again

    A while ago my grandfather died.  At the time I wrote about my experiences with it, arranging the funeral, the funeral itself and some interesting things I had never noticed or thought of before.  Now, just a few weeks ago my grandmother has also died.  So, now I am finally back in Sydney it's time I wrote about this funeral.

    Having the experience of the other funeral so recently this one was fairly different.  The circumstances behind her death were also different.  Overall it was a pleasant experience, but there are some observations and thoughts about it.

    Last time, with my grandfathers funeral I wrote the posts at the time of the events.  Maybe a day or two after them at most.  This time however I decided to take some time, to wait a few days and see if there is a difference.  I have found there is a great difference, this time my observations are more retrospective than before.

    This funeral was unlike the other, my grandmother had died suddenly and unexpectedly.  After a long wait she had gone into a nursing home, her health and mind was deteriorating but she was relatively ok.  Then she went into hospital, it was serious but not extreme.  The doctors expected her to live a month or two more at least.  But then she died within a few weeks.  My uncle had visited her just hours before her death and she appeared relatively fine.

    This is quite the contrast to my grandfather who lingered in the hospital, dying slowly for a few months.  With my grandfather we had time to prepare for his death (mentally), but interestingly no actual funeral plans were made or even talked of.  Yet with my grandmother who died unexpectedly and suddenly there was talk, there was some sort of planning at least thought of.  As soon as she went into the nursing home talk started, nobody made plans but everybody knew.  It sat quietly but clearly in the back of the minds of everyone.  We all knew she would not live out the year.

    Looking back on it I found this odd.  How with my grandfather who was dying for a while and who we knew was going to die yet we made no plans and never talked about the funeral.  Until after he actually died there was no movement of the funeral what so ever.  Then with my grandmother we were already thinking about it, even talking a little about it.  There was some discussion about using the same funeral home just a few weeks after she went into the nursing home.  The reality of the funeral was with us.  Before with my grandfather the funeral was just a thought, a theory, but not a reality.  Not something to discuss or think of as it was not real yet.  We knew it would happen, even roughly when it would happen, but the funeral had not happened.  So it was still nothing more than a distant thought.

    But with my grandmother the idea of her funeral was a reality quite soon, possibly even just after my grandfathers funeral.  I found it interesting, how the first funeral paved the way for the next.  In a way the first brought the next funeral into existence before it even happened.  Months before my grandmother died we knew she would have a funeral and it was a reality.

    One death and funeral shapes how we see and prepare for the next.  But there is something else here.  Despite the fact that everyone had been to one (or more) funerals before my grandfathers death they had no direct influence on his funeral and none on his death.  Sure, the other funerals informed how and what was to happen with his funeral.  But they had not made his funeral a reality the way his funeral made my grandmothers funeral real even before it happened.

    This illustrates that one death and funeral informs another, but the proximity is what is important.  How far appar the funerals are has more influence and significance than anything else.  The proximity is in some ways more important than the funeral itself.  The fact that the two funerals were so close together brought the second one into reality, into conceptual existence before it happened.  Before the death and without much talk or thought of death.  While the other funerals, held many years ago only influenced the ceremony and only slightly.  The closeness of the funerals did more to the mourners than the actual funerals.

    Another interesting thing was the way we picked the funeral home for my grandmothers funeral.  We went with the same funeral home because we knew them and they were close.  Familiarity and physical proximity were the reasons.  Last time, at my grandfathers funeral, we picked the funeral home based on how easy and far it was from my grandmothers.  She had a lot of trouble getting about so we made it easier on her.  This was not important at her funeral, she would find no difficulty getting there.  Yet we went with the same funeral home mainly because we knew it and were happy with it.

    This struck me as I had noticed and pointed out several mistakes at my grandfathers funeral.  The undertakers had not turned soon enough (they were actually very late to turn the coffin which caused confusion), they did not turn properly (they were a bit sloppy), they gave poor instructions (such as telling us to wheel by the handles) and were just not perfect.  Having said that I was the only person to notice these issues, something I have commented on before on this blog.  That having worked in the industry I notice this sort of thing, while everyone else misses it.

    Ever noticing this, and pointing it out nobody minded (myself included).  At the end of the day they did a decent job for a decent price and we were happy.  It was a fun event and the food (by Celest Catering) was great.  So knowing these faults we went with the same funeral home.

    It was an InvoCare funeral home, George Hartnett, which is a Guardian funeral home.  I will talk about the job they did and the funeral itself in my third and final post.  But for now I will say we got what we wanted and what I expected from an InvoCare company.  InvoCare is "good enough", they are rarely amazing, they are rarely terrible, they are almost always standard and decent.  This is a reason why I suggested trying InvoCare the first time, I knew it would be good enough.  That the chances of anything too terrible happening were very slim.  And my grandparents were not fussed with the idea of their funeral.  They would not have wanted something super fancy.

My Grandfathers funeral:

Arranging the funeral - the experience of his death and sorting out the funeral.

The little details - I realised just how important little things like the order of service are.

The funeral - about the funeral itself, how it went and what I thought.


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