My beautiful children. I dressed them in smart clothes and we went to wish Nana on her way. We arrived before my sister and her family, my children and I. The casket lay open and there was our Nana, but not. Dressed in the one outfit she still had in her wardrobe that she had chosen herself, from her life before Alzheimer’s. Bold and brightly coloured, the funeral directors had matched the flowers exactly to the colours in her suit. Glenn Miller played.
My children had their own tributes to put into Nana’s casket. Son Number One had drawn scenes from Nana’s life. Son Number Two had written a letter. Daughter Number Two had drawn a picture of herself with Nana and me, with a heart shaped rainbow above us. I also had written a letter. We lay our offerings on Nana’s lap, below her clasped hands. We scattered a handful of rose petals each into the casket. I added a handful of rose petals for Daughter Number One. My children and I talked quietly. My Sons shared memories of their Sister’s funeral. They remember decorating her casket.
Daughter Number One’s casket was white. My children and I decorated it with Winnie the Pooh stickers, heart stickers and their handprints in glitter paint. The funeral home attached rainbow ribbons to the handles. It was a thing of beauty and perfect for her. Son Number Two was only four. I didn’t know he remembered, but he does.
My Sister arrived and my children and I moved aside to let her have some private time with Nana. After she had said goodbye she went outside to bring in her two year old son and husband. While she was gone we helped move the chairs in close around Nana, in a semi circle. As we did so a lady from the Aged Care Facility arrived. It was an intimate little gathering. Nana would have called it exclusive.
The funeral director opened the ceremony and called on anyone who wanted to say a few words. We looked at each other and Miss Almost but not quite Six, my beautiful Daughter Number Two raised her hand. She said ‘Nana was a great Nana and I will miss her very very very very much’. My sister spoke next, then Son Number One, followed by his Brother. Then it was my turn.
My Sister’s little man, Master Two had been asleep. When he awoke, towards the end of our reminiscing, he said ‘Time to go!’ And he meant he wanted to leave but to me it was for Nana too – ‘Time to go’. The music started and as he recognized Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ Son Number Two gasped ‘Mum!’ and caught my gaze. I said ‘I know, mate’ and squeezed his shoulder. While the music played we took turns to scatter more rose petals on top of Nana’s casket. My Sister and her husband stood at the head of the casket, her husband holding their little son. My sister opened her palm to let him grab petals and scatter them, which he did with enthusiasm.
There were tears. There was laughter. There was love. There is no right way to do these things, only ways that pay respect and tribute to the loved one lost while providing some comfort for those left behind. We did what was right by Nana and what was right for us. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Love is what remains. Live, laugh, love.