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Baba's funeral

I understand Hanukkah began this weekend, so I hope those of my friends who celebrate, are having a good one!

Baba's funeral was Saturday, with prayers Friday night. She was my adopted grandma - that was what we called it. She lived next door to us, and she was my nanny and my babysitter for as long as I needed one. She practically raised me. My father's parents died when I was very young, and almost as soon as my parents had moved next door, Baba adopted my family as her own. Her sons called my father their other brother. I know all of her grandchildren - we were all family, and very close in age.

Baba was Ukrainian Orthodox, and it was wonderful to be exposed to her culture through-out my life. Every year she'd have a big, traditional, Ukrainian Christmas feast. We were always invited. The food was always amazing.

I was asked to be a Cross Bearer, and Jason a pallbearer at the funeral. We were so honoured. They also mentioned my sister and I in the obituary as "special neighbours" which was also very touching. What was unfortunate, was my lack of knowledge about Ukrainian Orthodox ceremonies.

The issue really was the prayer service. First of all, I have been to many prayer services/funerals. The prayer services I have attended, have always been an informal event, with a little bit of praying, and a lot of visiting and comforting. So when it looked like Jason and I were going to be a bit late for the Prayers, I wasn't too concerned. Well, with a Ukrainian Orthodox service, the Prayer Service is sort of Part I of the funeral. It's a pretty formal event. Jason and I wished we'd known that, before we had gotten dressed that day. He was in a T-shirt and khaki pants. I was wearing dark jeans and a sweater. Everyone else was wearing a black suit. We also wished we'd managed to show up on time - we were about 5 minutes late. Aside from being mortified, it went well, and was great to see the family.

What was interesting about the service (both prayer and funeral), was that it was conducted almost entirely in chant. Very different from what I'm used to. What was helpful though, were these little booklets they had on the chairs, which allowed you to follow the entire service. One side of the page was Ukrainian and the other side English. Very helpful indeed, considering I don't speak Ukrainian. There were a lot of similar things said, compared to a Catholic ceremony - it was just presented differently. I was a little bit surprised to see notations in the little booklet, about which tone of chant to use. Tone #6 for this prayer, and Tone #8 for that one. I could see how if you had some really good chanters (would they be chanters or choir members?), it would sound very lovely and hypnotic. I have to admit though, I did find myself craving some actual melody.

The funeral went well on Saturday morning. We visited with family most of the rest of the day, and then went out for supper that night. Sunday morning, my mother opened her house to the family, and everyone gathered there to visit. It was so nice to have everyone there together - I hadn't seen that since I was about 10. Baba would have loved it that her whole family was there. I was a little bit sad that we hadn't managed to all get together prior to her death, but she certainly would appreciate knowing that we all were together on her funeral weekend.

I miss her so much.

It feels like my family keeps shrinking.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 14th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
I hate these moments, I've never dealt with anything similar and it scares me to see my bravest friends dealing with it.
Some times you're not just my friend you're kinda like my hero. <3
Dec. 19th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
You're way too kind. I don't feel very heroic right now :/

Things are shaping up though, and I'm starting to get into the holiday season.
Dec. 19th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
From what I understand being brave has nothing to do with feeling brave and heroes rarely consider themselves so.
Ask anyone who knows me, I'm not kind, I'm polite and truthful too much so really.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 19th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
You know, I've been thinking about that a lot, for some reason I've been trying to weigh whether it would have been better for her to hang on until after Christmas, or to go when she did.

So specifically for me, and my own personal circumstances and experiences (which I fully acknowledge are not the rest of her family's), I think this happened at the right time, and it would have been much harder had she actually hung on.

Her own pain aside (because really, I think we need to consider that first before anything else), here are my more selfish reasons:

1) Extended death-watch is unbelievably draining. There is nothing that sucks the energy and life out of a person, quite like death-watch. Going to the hospital daily, is exhausting. Emotionally and physically. Trying to get everything else done around hospital visits, is exhausting. Taking care of family while dealing with the emotional turmoil of "about-to-lose-a-loved-one" is exhausting. And yet, I felt like I needed to do this - both with my dad, and with Baba. It was a choice - but one I felt strongly about.

2) In my own personal circumstances, I had already had a chance to say goodbye, and tell her I loved her. And at that time, she had heard me, and had been able to say she loved me too. As far as my own goodbyes went, I had the chance to say them, so I felt ready. I fully acknowledge that there were several of her family who did not have this opportunity, and so I can understand that this would not apply to everyone - this was just my own personal situation.

3) Having had "the last Christmas" with my dad, was the most dismal and depressing Christmas ever. It wasn't a celebration. It was probably even sadder than the first Christmas we spent without my dad. We all knew it was the last one, and each one of us was excusing ourselves to cry periodically, as did my dad. It was not happy, it was not joyful; it was a looming dreadfulness full of pain and sorrow. It was So Forced. I know it could have been different - but what with dad and the way he was, we did the best we could, and that's what we got. I do not EVER want to have another Christmas like that again. With Baba having had a stroke and not having been able to communicate at the end, I am glad she did not linger - for both her and her family's sake. I am selfishly glad that we will not have another Christmas like "the last Christmas" with dad. I am glad that we had a lovely Christmas with her last year, and we can remember it that way.

As difficult as it has been, to lose her over the holidays - I think it would have been harder and worse, for her to have hung on until after the season.

Sometimes things happen for a reason.

I'm thinking a lot of you too my friend <3
Dec. 14th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Dec. 19th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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