Moving On

It’s time. I’m moving on.

We finally had the funeral/memorial/celebration of life service for my mom. After eight months. Don’t ever take eight months to plan something like this. It’s best to get it done right away. But then this is the most I’ve ever had to do in planning a service, so maybe no time is a good time.

I’m not sure what to call the service we had. We said we wanted it to be more of a celebration of life, so not too somber and funeral-like. But as we started talking about songs, etc. it became clear my dad was planning a funeral. So, we went along with it.

Eight months is simply too long to think about it. We did have a private burial service in early January, thinking that would provide us with closure. It didn’t. Well, maybe for a while, but only because we couldn’t really do much about the actual service until later.

COVID has not only messed up lives; it’s messed up death.

Choosing a date

Our goal was to wait until we felt it was safe for people to be together. We also wanted to serve food. So, we waited and watched and finally, in April, we thought we could start planning. So, I contacted the pastor and we started throwing out dates.

We wanted to do something in July, but it would have to be early July and we thought it would be too difficult to schedule around July 4. Then the church had two weeks of Bible school. Then the pastor was going on vacation. So, we were into the second week in August.

My dad didn’t want it during the week. Too many people couldn’t come, he said. Honestly, I’m not sure that would have been an issue because most of the attendees are retired. But, OK, we’ll go with a weekend. So, he chose Sunday.

Sunday wasn’t going to work because there are too many church services to work around. Plus, one of my nieces wouldn’t be able to make the Sunday we had in mind.

So, Saturday, August 7 became the date. My mind is fuzzy on this part, but we chose 10:00 as the service time. For some reason, we didn’t want to serve lunch so earlier made more sense. But then my sister thought we couldn’t serve just cake and desserts either. It should be brunch. Which is fine, but then as we got closer to the date and met with the church coordinator, we learned we didn’t have a lot of flexibility, unless of course we wanted to cater it ourselves. We didn’t really want to do that.

We finally decided to change the time to 11:00 and serve lunch. Yea, a decision!!

Planning the service

I think it was May before we nailed down the date. You think you have lots of time, I don’t need to think about it for a while.

But that’s not true. We had decided we wanted people to share memories at the service. Finding people is tough. So my sister volunteered two of my nieces to speak together. We needed one more. No way was I going to do that. But in June, a voice in my head said I should do it. I had lots of ideas in my head but didn’t really start writing anything down until July.

Walking is a good time to think so I had all kinds of ideas pop into my head every day. I’d add some things and then delete others from my talk notes. We had three minutes each, which I thought was a manageable amount of time. Finally, a couple of weeks before the service, I nailed down what I wanted to say. And when I timed it – three minutes!! I was ready.

You’d think, with my mom being the planner she was, she would have written down more. She didn’t write her obituary, she didn’t specify songs, she didn’t identify Bible verses. All we found were some sketchy notes.

We met with the Pastor three weeks before the service. He knew my mom well, so all we did was give him some more ideas on what to include in his sermon.

We met with the funeral director and discussed details with him. We wanted a picture presentation and I’d accumulated a bunch of pictures, both printed and digital. I went through my printed pictures, my digital pictures, and photo albums of my mom’s. It’s suggested you use 75-150 pictures. We started with about 225 and I finally narrowed it down to 179. He said that was no big deal.

My dad was concerned that no one would know about the service and we wouldn’t have many people there. I put things on Facebook three times over the months, including the day it was in the newspaper. I assured him there would be people there and even if some weren’t, it was no indication of how they felt about her.

We didn’t want to use the funeral home’s thank you notes or buy a book for people to sign. First, we knew my mom would not be satisfied with the generic notes. So, we ordered some right after her death and still have many left. Second, we thought, what do you do with the guest book afterward? The funeral director had a great suggestion. He would find some pages we could use without buying a book. He said people expect to sign something when they come. So that’s what we did.

It’s finally here

After months of planning and thinking, the date finally arrived. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous about my talk. I suspect my mom would be surprised that I was talking at all, but I honestly don’t have trouble with public speaking, especially if I know my subject. Also, it had been eight months, so the grief had subsided a lot.

The service went extremely well. We had a good crowd – probably well over 100. The lunch the church provided was fabulous. My dad got to see lots of people he hadn’t seen for a while and I got to see many of my friends too, including some I didn’t expect to be there.

I did feel some relief once I was done with my talk, and enjoyed the wonderful sermon from Pastor Scott. However, I haven’t felt as much relief as I thought I would. I think it’s too soon; we’re still going through cards and talking about how well the service went, especially my dad. I know over time, we’ll all be moving on, which doesn’t mean we forget about her but we’ll have closure. Maybe that isn’t even possible.

Not sure why, but I still wake up every day, thinking about various things related to my mom. I suppose that’s normal, but I’m definitely moving on.

14 thoughts on “Moving On”

  1. Losing your mother is so hard. I hope you are finding comfort in those thoughts of her, and I’m happy the service went so well…despite the challenges planning it. I completely agree that stretching things out, even when necessary, is not ideal. My mother passed just before COVID really took off. We were able to have a service with in-person guests for her. Our challenge has been fulfilling her request to spread her ashes in Alaska. We had a trip all planned, but it was cancelled due to COVID. We’ve been hesitant to reschedule with the recent spikes. Fingers crossed for this summer!

    1. Thanks Christie. My fingers are crossed that you’ll soon get your last bit of closure. It’s more important than I realized.

  2. There has been many a funeral service downsized or postponed due to the pandemic and I applaud you for having the service. It’s always emotional no matter the timeline.

    1. We’ve been watching the obituaries to see how many are late due to the pandemic and there have been quite a few. I think waiting was better than trying to have it too early, before people were afraid to get together. All last week I worried that this new surge might mess things up for us, but fortunately, it did not.

  3. Thanks for your writing about this Linda!
    Sorry that I couldn’t make the service, I so wish that I could have.
    My Dad passed away over 4 years ago, and I still think about him, and hear him speaking to me every day. I’ve learned that this is a true Blessing, and not necessarily my grieving.
    Your Mom has been such a wonderful influencer of so many, far more than any of you know. The store was her other church, and her Gift Department was her pulpit…such a Blessing.
    I’m confident that the service was wonderful and your speaking very well done and a great tribute.
    Thank you again for your writings.
    Although I now travel a different state, I’ve been in South Dakota all week, I have yet to meet another Jo, although so many are so terrific and inspiring as she was.
    Blessings to you and your family!

    1. Thanks Steve, My dad wondered if you might make it down for the service, but he knew it would be a stretch for you.
      It’s been great hearing about my mom through other people as I only knew her as my mom. I’m sure those are very different perspectives. However, there are definitely characteristics that we’ve all known!!
      Take care and I’ll give my dad your best.

  4. Good for you to finally experience the traditional actions of closure. I’m sure that will go a long way toward acceptance and healing. Especially for your dad.

      1. Linda- It was nice to read about your mom’s celebration of life get together. I am sorry, I was not able to attend. I had another obligation at the same time. But your mom truely walked the HyVee message. “A friendly smile in every aisle.” I know that goes back many years; when she worked at Drug Town. But, I always knew if your mom was working; she would have a smile for me and kind words. She was a blessing to know. So sorry about your lose. ❤️ Sharon (Schmidt) Burton

  5. It was a lovely service. We really do need the ceremony, don’t we? We had a service for my Mom but my step father died at Easter last year, the height of the shut down. Makes it harder to move forward.

    1. Thanks SO much for being there. Yes, the ceremony seems to be more important than I thought, although I was very ready for it to be over so we could get past it. My brother-in-law taped it for my niece in Germany so hopefully that will help her too.

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