the empty chair

chair

It has been a difficult week or two. Monday was BIL’s funeral. He would have loved it! The was a recitation of the Hail Mary in Gaelic by a nephew by marriage; his daughter’s mother in law piped BIL out of the church and at the cemetery with haunting bag pipe music.  His favourite song by Eric Bogel, Safe Habour was played during the reflection period after Communion. His daughter had also created a beautiful PowerPoint that played during the mass. It had photos of BIL with all his family members, his and ours.

More than one person commented that it was the most beautiful funeral they had ever attended.

As BIL and my sister have spent their entire lives in our home town, they are known by many people, and of course we have large extended families as well. The police had to direct traffic through the town centre as we progressed to the cemetery.

There were baskets of rose petals to scatter across the coffin. The children present took to this with gusto and we all laughed when one little great niece upended a basket and shook it with earnest endeavour to make sure every last petal disappeared with BIL. I could just imagine BIL egging the children on, as he adored them.

Afterwards there was the obligatory cup of tea and finger food, which we were all dreading. Some of his nephews produced a few bottles of beer to salute him, making it a traditional Irish wake (BIL’s background was Irish, ours is German).

My sister has been a champion, holding everyone together. She says her most surreal moment was in the funeral home when she was faced with the selection of coffins.

There were coffins with aerial scenes of the local farming district, a coffin shaped like a tractor, another that appeared to be made from old fence palings. There was a sofa onto which Sister sank and asked for a coffee, it was all to much. So she sat sipping her coffee in a room surrounded by coffins. Her selection was more traditional!

I was given comfort by my dearest friend, who I have known since kindergarten. She and her husband both took time off work to attend BIL’s funeral. We reminisced about how BIL and Sister had taken us to our very first music concert – Cat Stevens back in August 1972 at Festival Hall. It was also something I had reminisced about with BIL in one of our last real conversations. Friend was also at their wedding earlier that year. When you make a childhood friend you never think that you will be comforting each other at funerals in your older years…

So, where to now? My sister will have to adjust to life alone, days restructured, plans refocussed. The rest of us have gone back to our every day lives. Every so often I stop and think “I can’t believe BIL is gone”, but he is.

Another empty chair at the table.

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9 thoughts on “the empty chair

  1. Beautifully written. The bit about the empty chair is relevant to us at the moment as first birthdays, Christmas and Anniversaries are passed without Gill’s Mum. It’s hard and always grates to hear that ‘life goes on’ and ‘you’ll get used to it’.
    I wish your sister well in rebuilding her life and am sure his memory and character will help support her.

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  2. The empty chair is a beautiful metaphor for the loss of a beloved. I am sorry for the passing of your BIL. The funeral sounded perfect and lovely and as always I love the way you weave humor and irony into your sad and serious posts. Beautifully written.

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  3. I had to laugh at the thought of your sister sitting among the coffins, as creepy as it must have been for her. When we were planning my mother’s funeral, we were startled when the funeral director suddenly opened this door and showed us into this room filled with coffins of every color and texture. Some of them reminded me of sports cars because they were so shiny and bright-colored: and there was a coffin that was actually shaped like a Ford Mustang! The director, noticing that I was gawking at this, said they could also order that particular casket in other car models if so wished. I don’t think Mom would have wanted to appear at her funeral in a Porsche, but who knows, she could be quite whimsical at times.

    The empty chair is such a lovely metaphor for loss and the ache one feels after the death of a family member. I hope your sister can take some comfort in being able to rest after a long vigil.

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