Tag Archives: funerals

Finding grace amidst grief

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It was part of my job to follow Nancy Reagan’s funeral on Friday. But it was also a lesson on grace, grief and choosing love at the right moment.

The fact that daughter Patti Davis and Nancy Reagan had a difficult relationship is well known. It has been written about and documented in numerous books and interviews by Davis and Reagan as well as political pundits and gossip columnists.

Imagine the pressure you would feel when asked to speak at the funeral of a relative who you had a love/hate relationship with, a funeral that was being broadcast to millions of people across the nation.

Oh sure, Patti Davis has led a life of privilege, but money and power doesn’t guarantee happiness.

Davis recounted a humorous prank that Nancy played on Ronald, a moment she relived with her mother in the days before her death. After telling the story, Davis said at the time she didn’t realize that would be the last time she would hear her mother laugh.

That really struck a personal chord with me, because I also think back to the last time my mother laughed and made me laugh. I can remember the moment in great detail. It was the day we started her morphine, finally, after battling the doctor and home hospice for more pain relief. A few doses in, Mom woke up for a nap and wanted to get up. I helped her out of bed and asked her how she was feeling, looking for any signs of the common side effects, such as nausea or dizziness.

Mom grabbed the puke bucket that I had placed on the bed in preparation for any such issues, and placed it on her head (yes, it was empty.) She then danced a little jig.

It was the only time that entire last month of my mother’s life that I genuinely laughed.

An hour or two later, Mom was vomiting into the bucket.

But back to Davis. She didn’t ignore the difficult relationship she had with her mother, saying that there were never any shades of grey in their relationship, but instead bright colors and passionate emotions. She took responsibility for her actions while not exonerating her mother, as death does not wipe clean a person’s past transgressions.

On Friday though, Davis chose love, and she did so with grace and humor.

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An Irish wake

Mom was telling me about someone she knows who just revealed they have pancreatic cancer, stage IV. Realistically looking at their odds, he has already started planning for his departure from this world. An Irishman, he wants his life to be celebrated via an Irish wake versus the sad mourning of a traditional funeral.

Dad had no ceremony when he left this earth. It was impossible to know if that’s how he would have wanted it, because he had a fear of death and would not discuss the particulars when he still had his mind. Dad’s family is in Ireland and Australia, so there’s no way they would have come to New Mexico for a funeral. And while Dad was liked by the locals, he didn’t have any close friends, so the invitation list would have been small. Then there was that winter storm, combined with the Christmas holiday that delayed Dad’s physical departure from this earth. (His cremation was delayed until a doctor was available to sign the death certificate. He died five days before Christmas, but was kept in the morgue of a funeral home for several days until the paperwork was completed.)

I do like the idea of a wake, where one’s memory is celebrated. Mourning certainly has its time and place, but I prefer to do that privately. And the sadness, the grief comes because of what the deceased person meant to others. I think Dad would have approved pint glasses of Guinness raised high in his honor and memory.

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