Prescription for Disaster

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Funeral

Okay everybody-

If anybody else dies... I've got a guy.

I remember going to funerals as a kid (though not like, living in a Tornado belt kind of often), and never really grasping them. I'd dress in black and be sad, not really understand what was happening or have the remotest clue how this all magically comes together, we'd go to someone's house for juice and God help you if you cracked a smile over anything. 

It was just kind of a ritual that I accepted without question - dress in black. Be sad. Exude sadness. Drink juice. Repeat every once in a while.

And then suddenly at the age of 34 I had to plan one. In another country.

For my dad.

It was pretty unexpected and out of the blue- we'd just gotten home with friends from Norway/America and Brazil at our place in Ireland (it was like a mini UN convention in my living room) late on Saturday night when I got a message from a distant aunt, asking me to call my grandmother. 

That's never a good sign.

However, my grandmother's (bless her!) delivery was a little off:

'Hi Grandma! You were looking for me?'

"Oh Candace! Yes! Don't worry. Everything is fine. I'm fine, Grandpa's fine... but your dad not so much.'

My dad lived a very stressful, very difficult life- and the result of this was that he died of a heart attack at the age of 52, prompting my first trip back to Canada in over 4 years.

I vaguely remember telling the family something along the lines of 

'Don't worry, I'll handle it'

And then my life went completely buck-wild for about 3 days that involved flying across the world with the twins and my life becoming a flurry of arrangements and timbits, Paul and I carting the sleeping twins from house to car to house to car to house as there was just.. no time. 

We were in Canada for a single week, and in that time had to plan a funeral, make all of the arrangements for my father's affairs, make sure that his family would be okay, possibly take a new driving test (?!) and then fly back in time for my inevitable medical meltdown.

Okay. It's okay. I've got this. Paul pat my back and sent me into the ring.

In I went, it didn't matter if I was okay - I was a mom, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a daughter- and if this was to be my dad's last hurrah I was going to be the best damn representative of him to the rest of the world that somehow kept turning without him.

I relied on my incredible friends, women in Australia, the US, the Netherlands and England were sending me links and lists on what to do for a death in Canada for me to read on the plane. Crisis talks were being prepared while we flew to formulate a plan for his wife and daughter to carry on securely with family and friends that came together as experts in their fields. 

When we landed I was given the name of my family's preferred funeral home and I was off like a shot - cool, confident, collected... until I had to start signing death certificates

Cremation orders

and then choosing both a coffin and a cremation vase.

I couldn't do it. Rene (my uncle... who's 46) was with me and he was kind of leaving it up to me - I kept wanting to call Grandma for approval or maybe just to absolve myself of some sort of responsibility from some part of this- I couldn't choose the final resting place for my dad, this was insane! It wasn't possible! It's just not happening! It's just...

Oh wait. 

Nope that's it. That one. It's PERFECT.

And suddenly the funeral had a theme.

This was better. This funeral was now about my dad for who he was, not who he was forced to become over the last 5 years. It was about how funny he was, how generous and how utterly fantastic he was. 

I was going to own that euology. 

My funeral guy, Gary, after having met with me, had to go through a mental list of priests to conduct the ceremony, crossing out those that weren't 'flexible enough' to presumably deal with me. Kudos to him, and he found me one that wasn't too horrified over my questions like:

  • Will there be holy water?
    You may need it. There might be a couple of guests that burst into flame when they walk into the church.
  • Can we do the euolgy at the end?
  • No. Euologies go at the beginning.
  • But this one has to go at the end.
  • Why?
  • Because there's a finale. And a small stage production. And props.
  • At a funeral?
  • Yes. So it needs to be at the end. 
  • I'll let you split it into two parts.
  • Deal.
  • And I need you to leave the back door unlocked.
  • What? Why?
  • In case the finale flops. I need a quick exit.

Well, other than being accosted by an estranged family member in a toilet stall while peeing right before the funeral got underway, narrowly avoiding having to fill my dad's cremation vase with cat litter as there was a delay at the coroner's office (no one would know! It would be fine!), the funeral home letting me steal their outdoor garden plants to satisfy a last minute request from my father's wife and the home's graphic designer helping me photoshop a picture of my dad with the Jasper Store Bear to look as though he'd taken a bear to Sears for a family photo-

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we managed to celebrate my father's life in his style, and in a way that I hope we all remember him fondly.

The thing with my dad is that above anything else, he never had enough time. He loved to fish, dirtbike, camp, play golf - he just never, ever had enough time. This was a running theme throughout the speakers at his service, it was echoed by his colleagues when I cleared out his desk at work. It was echoed by his mother. His friends. His family. He just never, ever had enough time. 

It was the end of the eulogy - the big finale. I again brought up my dad's lack of time as I walked to the middle of the dais, lifted the picture cloaking his cremation vase from view and proudly declared:


I had my dad put into a clock to remind us of how precious our time is, and to stop wasting it on stupid stuff and people that don't appreciate or deserve it.

Overall, the funeral went fairly well, as well as funerals tend to go, with the requisite off the wall dramatics about who gets to do what with his ashes at the very end which went so immediately squirrely that I gave up and stormed out, followed into the parking lot by my funeral guy and his team. 

He assured me that even with the fairly ridiculous ending, he and his team felt the funeral went quite smoothly and on the grand scale of things they would rate this particular funeral drama at about a 4.0 of 10. I did well, I did the right thing and now my work was done. And don't worry, he'll make sure that I get that clock, because that was awesome.

Like I said, if anyone else needs a funeral-

I've got a guy.

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