When I was 8 my uncle Donnie died of lukemia. He had been sick for several years. In and out of the hospital, blood transfusions from all the siblings. I remember long car rides down to the U of M for visits, but I don't remember the visits themselves. I don't remember him. I rembember getting into a car acident on the way home one night. I remember the police car ride home. But I don't remember him.
When he died the family had the Priest from church come out to the farm for us kids. There were 12 of us cousins and we got to ask any question that we wanted to about death. I don't remember asking any. I remember one of the boy cousins made a wisecrack that I thought was funny, my parents did not.
I remember the 3 nights of the wake. It occurs to me that no one does 3 nights anymore and if I had to guess, it would seem that it took more time for news to travel then. More time for people to get to the wake too. I remember going to my other grandparent's house for food on the nights of the wake.
I don't remember the funeral.
3 months later we repeated the process when my Grandpa died. Same 3 days of wake and funeral. Again, I don't remember much about it.
And in that time I've been to many wakes and funerals of friends and loved ones. I surely don't remember them all. And I can honestly say that they don't get any easier.
My niece Alison is struggling with the death of her Papa. She's trying to wrap her 7 year old brain around the concept and meaning of death. Nevermind that she doesn't understand the process. And she surely doesn't understand the rituals. All she knows is that it's confusing and sad. She just wants her Papa back. I wish I could remember what it was like as a 7 year old. I so much want to put my head close to hers and whisper that I understand and give her the words of comfort that she needs.