Dark red carpet and stained wood encased the visitation rooms in the funeral home. The atmosphere was quiet, somber. The air had an icy quality to it. But beneath that chilled facade was a team of people full of emotion and empathy – a staff that was ready and willing to guide us through a tumultuous but necessary experience and to find the right way to help us get through a difficult time.
There is no one way to grieve. Each person will find their own way to overcome the loss of a loved one and each experience will be different based on the circumstance of loss. When my brother and I lost our mother in March, we had been mentally preparing ourselves for the day that we would have to face the news that our mom was no longer going to be a part of our daily lives. The phone call with the news was a still a shock, but we were grateful she went peacefully and no longer had to suffer the effects of her illness. What we had not prepared ourselves for was the way that we would be able to celebrate her only 36 hours after we were told she was gone.
We received the news on a Friday morning. The rest of that day was a blur. Phone call after phone call was made to tell family and friends that she was gone and then Saturday morning was upon us. My brother and I made our way to the funeral home to make the necessary arrangements and have the notice printed for the paper. Upon proof-reading the notice, I realized that the funeral director had mistakenly typed my mom’s name as “June” and not “Jane”. It was a simple fix and seemingly a forgotten mistake……until we went to my Uncle’s cottage for dinner that night.
There were six of us. My brother and I, my mom’s two siblings and their spouses. When I regaled my aunts and uncles with the story of the misprint it was, not offensive but, really amusing. We raised our glasses and had a toast to “June”. Thankfully we all knew my mother would have seen the humor in the mistake and toasted right along with us. For the rest of the memory-filled evening, through tears and laughter, we continued to raise our glasses and make the heart-felt toasts to “June”. If I listened really hard I could hear my mom laughing along with us.
We had mom’s celebration of life two months later. I had gone into the funeral home to have the notice done for the paper and the same funeral director asked if I wanted it to say “June” or “Jane”. We both had a good laugh and I felt comfortable telling him how his simply typo had made our evening so much better than the sorrow-filled night it could have been. During the course of the evening, we changed my mom’s siblings names as well. (Eight months later I still refer to my Aunt Carol as “Cheryl” and my Uncle Peter as “Proctor”)
The simple change of one vowel that day gave us permission to laugh that night. It allowed us to hold the grief close to our heart but let our minds remember all the good in the world when my mom was still in it.