Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

My Father’s Funeral


My father died on the 27th of July 2013. I wasn’t there.

My father’s funeral was held on the 30th of July 2013. I didn’t attend.

II had said my goodbyes to my father two weeks before. He was barely conscious and I doubt that he realised he was dying. If he did, he certainly put up a good fight. The last time I saw him, his breathing stopped often and each time itndid I was certain he had breathed his last. But then miraculously he would start breathingnagain. Even though we knew the end was near, it was also a happy time.

For the first time in many, many years, my father, mother, two brothers, sister and I were together in the same room. It may have been a hospital room but that didn’t matter. We sat around Dad’s bed and between singing old favourite songs to him, we reminisced about growing up under the watchful eye of our parents. Every now and then our father would wake up and be with us for a minute or two before drifting into unconsciousness again.

I spent three days with my father, but inevitably I needed to return home. No one expected him to hang on as long as he did, but in hindsight we should have realised that being the stubborn bugger he was, he wasn’t going to go without a fight. Even though I had said my goodbyes, I was sad that I wasn’t there with him at the end. He was ninety years and one month young.

On the day before the funeral I developed a migraine. By the following morning it was much worse. I was unable to string sentences together, and had difficulty in comprehending what my wife said. I was unable to walk without staggering, one side of my face had a droop, and my right arm had gone on strike. As best as I could I told my wife that I still wanted to attend the funeral even though it was an hour drive to the city where it was to be held.

When my son arrived to pick us up, I not yet dressed into my suit, so I struggled upstairs to change. Buttons are very difficult to do up when one set of fingers refuses to cooperate and the other set obeys reluctantly. Eventually I was dressed and struggled downstairs and waited in the dining room while the others made final preparations for the journey.

I have no idea how long I waited, but eventually I realised the house was very quiet. I went in search of the rest of the family but found no one. I then noticed my son’s  car was not in the driveway. I couldn’t understand why they had left without me.

I tried to phone my sister to tell her that I had been left behind but I wasn’t able to make a coherent sentence, andbhung up in frustration. Almost immediately the phone rang,  it was from my sister’s house. The personnon the other end told me not to worry about not being able to attend the funeral or being a pallbearer. I’m not sure if my insistence that I wanted to attend was understood and eventually the caller terminated the call. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my wife and son had already arrived at my sister’s place where everyone was congregating before the funeral. Over an hour had passed since I went to change.

Migraines can play havoc  with  one’s executive skills and it  did so that day. I decided that if I was going to attend the funeral, I would have to get there myself. I realise I was in no state to drive, so I  set out on foot. I was about three kilometres into the journey when it dawned on  me that it would take more than nine hours to get there and the funeral would be well and truly over by then. I turned around and headed home.

I don’t remember the walk back home or anything else until late in the day when my wife found me sprawled out on the bed still in my suit. It’s not often I get angry, in fact it’s extremely rare, but apparently I was furious after I was told I was left behind “for my own good”. To add insult to injury, I was informed that my condition was so distressing to observe that it would have upset those attending the funeral.

I didn’t attend my father’s funeral. I wanted to.

Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and discovered I am autistic at the age of sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

16 thoughts on “My Father’s Funeral

  1. Oh, Barry. I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry things happened like that. You tell the story powerfully.

    • Thank you EA. I thought I had got over it, but some emotions still remain.

      • I can well imagine. They would remain for me, too. And anniversaries are a natural time for remembrance. You’ve been in my thoughts today.

        • I have been reflecting on what I feel and I don’t think it’s my father’s death or even that I missed the funeral. I’ve never felt I lost my father. He lives on in the values and love of life that he passed on to his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. A funeral was just one way to honour my father. There are many other ways. Besides, I’m not comfortable with rituals of prayers and songs of praise to a heavenly father.

          I think what bothers me most is that decisions was made about me without consultation. Some family members have apologised, but others continue to believe, that my presence at the funeral would have been too distressing for others, and it was “for the best” that I didn’t attend. That I’m not able to accept. How I look when I have a severe migraine should be irrelevant.

          As best as I can comprehend, it’s the transient nature of the migraines that’s the problem. If I had had a stroke and displayed exactly the same symptoms as I do during a migraine, there would have been no issue with me attending. It seems that because the symptoms come and go that there is a problem. That I don’t understand.

          • I hesitate to sympathize so strongly that I inadvertently make you feel worse and more definitely wronged, rather than supported, albeit by a stranger. But you have my support for your side of the story and your experience of that day. What you describe is how I would have felt, and how I feel when reading about it. I’m happy for you that you feel you haven’t lost your father – something that no one can deny you.

        • Thank you EA. I think I’ve got it out of my system for now. We’ll see what transpires next year 🙂

        • Hey Barry. I wanted to comment on your observation that because your affliction is transitory, that it is less socially acceptable. I’ve run up against that in a number of ways over my life and have come to the conclusion that if people have seen you “normal” and then “not normal”, they can relate easier and will push you away because they cannot handle the fact that it could happen to them. It highlights the randomness and uncontrollability of the illness – tomorrow it could be them. I had a friend at work for years. He and I got along well and I considered him a good friend and a good man. Then I got sick and he developed a serious hate for me. I was confused and it took some years before I was having a conversation with an old colleague we both worked with, and asked him why. His response was simple – Tom is angry becasue you are sick and he cannot handle the thought that it could happen to him as well. Tom defined himself by his physical fitness (which I used to match) and so pushed me away when I got sick (cancer). The interesting thing is that the better someone knows you . the stronger the reaction seems. Your illness highlights their mortality.

          In the case where someone is a stranger, they seem to accept your issues easier as they don’t identify with you. If you have a visible fixable issue, say a broken arm, people will be very empathatic because they know how arms get broken and feel they can control that happening in their lives. An associated reaction happens when someone has a non-visible illness, say mental illness. Many react by moving themselves to an emotional distance. They cannot integrate the fact that the person looks “normal” and yet isn’t. It hits too close to home and makes them question their own mental health. Most find this uncomfortable.

          I’d be interested if you think this analysis holds any water for you. thanks Barry.

        • There’s probably an element of truth in what you say Paul, but I’m not sure it is the entire explanation. Some of it is also likely to be that they can’t have a standard set of responses to my condition. Each time they see me, they have evaluate how I’m feeling before deciding on the appropriate set of responses. They may be afraid of getting it wrong — especially thinking I’m worse than I really am.

          I have asked a few family members what is so distressing about seeing me when I’m really bad, and they all have difficulty explaining it. One common theme is that my appearance gives the impression of extreme pain — beyond physical endurance. It seems that it’s imagining the pain that is so distressing. I don’t think I suffer that badly, besides I have no recollection of the pain afterwards. I’m not able to imagine pain. I have to be experiencing it know what it is, so I can’t comprehend what their distress is.

          I’m not sure if the above makes much sense. It’s about the best I can do.

  2. That was such a real recounting- I could feel your determination and anger Barry. Thank you for sharing that with us.

    • I am quite surprised that the anniversary would bring back the feelings so strongly. I thought I was over it. Perhaps I need to write something about my father to heal fully.

  3. That had to be extremely frustrating for you. Sorry you missed the funeral, but at least you had the good sense to stop walking and turn around to head back home.

    • On that occasion, yes, good sense did kick in. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case. There have been a number of occasions where I have come to in hospital without a clue as to how I got there.

  4. I’m sorry you missed the funeral. I would have been livid as well. I know how those migraines feel and they aren’t fun.

    Sorry for your loss.

    • This may sound odd, but I don’t feel any loss. He continues to exist in my consciousness much as he always has. He was not very demonstrative with his affections until late in life, and the aspie in me finds close physical proximity quite uncomfortable anyway. Although I have a lot of respect and admiration for him, he was not someone to approach if one wanted to discuss the meaning of life and the universe. However he was a veritable mine of practical information.

  5. Pingback: Mother-in-Law’s funeral | Another Spectrum

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