funeral in the church

The Unexpected Things I Learned About Myself At A Funeral

You never know when you will have these “light bulb” going off experiences…

funeral in the church

the light went off in the church…not literally

I have been blessed in my life to have three “Mothers”. My Mother who gave birth to me, my godmother Lorraine and my Mother-in-law, Peg(actually she hasn’t been my MIL for many years, since her son and I divorced). My Mother passed away in 2014, I was grateful to still have Lorraine and Peg as my “other Mothers”. Lorraine passed in October of last year and Peg, this past week.

All 3 of these women were so important to me and such big influences in my life. They helped to shape me into the woman I am today. All of them were very different, the one constant being their deep love for me and my love for them. I have written about my Mother several times and have shared how much I miss her every day. I was so grateful to have these other women in my life when she passed. Now they are all 3 gone.

Peg had been in a nursing home for the last several months. The very same one my Mother had been in for 4 years and the exact same wing she was in when we said goodbye to her. So it was very hard to go back there when my MIL was sent there to recuperate from an illness. We thought she would go back to her home and that is what she had hoped for also. But that wasn’t meant to be. We went to visit almost 2 weeks ago and she passed a few days later. We knew most likely when we left that day we would not see her again..on this earth.

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

I had been dreading the thought of her funeral, due to the fact that it seems like all I do lately is go to funerals of people I love. However this particular one was different…and we spoke about it many times when we were together. It was different because my ex husband would be there. A man I had loved dearly, a man who was my first love, the father of my children and a man I thought I would be with forever. Knowing also the funeral would be held in the church we used to go to as a family when we were together and where we got married for the second time(yes, we did..incase you missed this in my previous posts, I did marry him twice). It took me a long time to get over him after our divorce. I thought love was supposed to last forever. I couldn’t believe ours didn’t.

My oldest was out of the country at the time of the funeral but my youngest came home with her 3 boys. We all went to the funeral together and also took my son’s 2 children. All 5 of the kids loved their Nanny and wanted to be there. For those of you reading my blog for the first time, I lost my son in July of last year. The 7 of us walked into the church and immediately memories from the past came flooding back. I though it might be hard but I didn’t expect it to be that hard. Thank goodness for the love and support from my Brother-in-law and Sister-in-law and their whole family including my nieces and nephew who quickly surrounded us and hugged us. With me not being “real” family and knowing how my ex felt about me, I knew I was the odd man(woman) out…but they did everything they could to make me feel like part of their family. Their warmth, love and understanding was truly appreciated and something I will never forget.

Without going into too much detail, lets just say things between my ex and I aren’t exactly good. Things between us aren’t really anything at all since we don’t speak and I haven’t seen or heard from him in over 30 years. He doesn’t have a relationship with his children(our kids together) and he has never met his grandchildren(his choice). So the fact my Mother-in-law and I could keep a relationship through all of this albeit a close one was amazing. We never knew what to call each other, so I would call her Mom and she told people I was her daughter-in-law. We got tired of  saying ex DIL and MIL and explaining it to people so we just settled on that.

I loved my MIL and I was going to the funeral no matter what. I needed to pay my respects to her for all she had done and all she had been to my children and grandchildren, and of course me. I knew my ex wouldn’t be happy about my being there so I didn’t know what to expect when I saw him. What I really didn’t expect were all the feelings that came over me the moment I first saw him walk in. So many mixed emotions and feelings of “what ifs” and what could have been. I was brought right back to that time many many years ago when we were a family and raising our kids together. I guess its normal to feel this way especially when you haven’t seen the person in such a long time. I guess its normal to wonder what might have been and how life would have played out for us if we had stayed together. I guess it is, I’ve never been in this position before so I don’t really know. I just knew I was overloading on memories and freaking out a bit.

My daughter sensed all of this going on and leaned over and hugged me and asked me how I was doing. I told her I wasn’t doing too good. I told her there was so much going on and so many feelings I didn’t expect to feel. While she was hugging me she whispered in my ear, “turn around and look a few pews back.” I turned around and there was someone else from my past seated all alone just smiling back at me. A friend, a good friend that had been around during that time and knew what I was going through. It was a friend I hadn’t seen in a very long time. But somehow just seeing this person there helped. It jolted me right out of my “what ifs” and “what could have beens”. It reminded me of how far I’d come since that time way back then and that I made it to this point in life all on my own. I had raised my kids myself and did a pretty decent job. My son may be gone but he was a good, kind man and he created 2 sweet loving children to carry on his legacy. My girls are both wonderful young women and they are also my friends. My youngest is raising her 3 boys and they are growing up into caring young men. I realized I had done pretty good without him or his help.

Having these 5 grandchildren sitting beside me made me feel so loved. They were worried about me and wanted to protect me. So did my nieces, they sat in the pew with me as well. I don’t think I have ever felt so loved, especially at a time such as this when I wasn’t sure I could even make it through the day. I do know their grandfather will never know that kind of love. And I feel sorry for him. When he stood  at the podium looking out over the church to read what he had written about his mother, there we were… all 7 of us lined up together directly in his view. He couldn’t NOT see us. He has not seen us for 30 years but he saw us that day in the church. The day we came to pay our respects to the woman who raised him. The woman I called Mom.

“No one ever really dies as long as they took the time to leave us with fond memories.” ~ Chris Sorensen

38 thoughts on “The Unexpected Things I Learned About Myself At A Funeral

  1. WOW!…so many feelings…Your MIL just loved you…and your children and did what mothers do….She chose to have a relationship with your (her) family. I will never understand how a man can choose not to ,but that to me is his loss. My brother in law married a good woman with two pre teens whose father had done the same thing. He wanted no relationship..he did pay child support but when the first girl turned 18 and was off to college to study to be an engineer ,(both girls are brilliant, and funny and great women and have graduate degrees) he told his first born daughter that if she ever contacted him again he would have her arrested for harassment…They have not seen him since and have had no contact. Again, his loss, because his girls (women) are incredible human beings..He had paid what was court mandated and he was done. My sister in law, maintained a good relationship with his father who lived in Erie ,and over the years, they visited and the granddaughters loved him until the day he died. His son’s behavior was a source of embarrassment and sorrow for him. But back to you…You honored Peg by being there and your kids and their cousins know how you felt about her. Sorry for your loss, too many lately, but you have a family that loves you…you reap what you sow…

  2. Oh my. I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother-in-law surely was a treasure. Keep all those good thoughts and memories close at hand.

  3. Renee you are amazing and a wonderful mother, grandmother and friend, Mrs. Stambaugh as we always called our elders was a great lady, Stay strong and feel my prayers as hugs

  4. Dear sweet Renee…….I sit here with tears streaming down my face wondering what words of support, consolation and love I can extend to you that have not already been so. I know exactly the emotions you are feeling as I am probably as close to my ex-mother-in-law as you have been. During all the times my ex-husband and I ever had problems or issues, she always let me know how much she loved me and that I could always come to her and talk. Over the past 48 years she never turned me away or spoke badly about me. She did, however, always hugged and kissed me, listened to me and gave me advice that was sound and never biased. I was closer to her than my own mother. My “Mom” is almost 99 and just entered a nursing home and I go every week to spend time with her. I have been sick with a stomach bug for the past 3 days and it tears me up that I couldn’t go to see her. I will miss her forever when I do lose her, as will the rest of her family. So, I feel your pain, your love and your devotion to that precious “Mom” in your life. Lean on all she taught you, the never-ending love she shared with you and the connection you had with her. She will live on in your heart and soul because she became a part of you all those years ago! I promise to do the same with mine. Love you, precious girl!! <3

  5. wow, what a touching post. So sorry for your loss by the way. i too remained very close with my MIL after we divorced and stayed that way up until her passing. She honestly raised my son cause i had to go back to work 2 weeks after he was born, so i know how hard it was to say goodbye. But as you’ve seen my posts, my EX and I have remained very good friends and talk almost daily honestly, or every couple days anyhow. Thats so sad your ex has not seen his grandchildren or children…wow. Can’t imagine, but his loss. And no, i DON’T remember you married him twice…..if I did, i forgot. Anyhow sweetie, soooo sorry for your loss. I’m glad you paid your respects and I’m glad your family was there with you. Love reading this blogs….you do an excellent JOB in writing. LOVE YA.

  6. I’m sorry for your loss but I’m happy for you that you had that long-standing relationship! The benefits and warm memories will still be around to hug you. That was the saddest part of my divorce that while I was done with him, I didn’t get to keep his crazy family of women who made me smile.

  7. So sorry for your loss. That one quote really did resonate with me, about no one ever really dying. I 110% believe that those who have passed are still with us everyday. So just keep your head up and know they’re always there!

  8. Families are so different from what they once were, less stable and more like a revolving door. But they all change us in some way and for that we are grateful. I commend you for maintaining the relationship with your mother in law and for attending her funeral. I’m so glad you did so surrounded by love and support.

  9. I’m so sorry to hear about your losses but this piece did touch my heart this morning. It helps so much to have supportive people around during hard times – they are what gets us through them.

  10. Such a thoughtful and profoundly moving reflection — I do appreciate you sharing it. Support to you as you cope with another loss.

  11. This brought back so many memories of losing my mother and father, along with a brother and sister. So glad you had family there to support you. Sad about you ex but he made his choices.

  12. A very well written blog about a subject most people prefer not to discuss or even think about. Funerals become a time when reflection naturally takes over our feelings as we put the life of a special person in context as we remember them. I am fortunate to still have my mother alive even though we have not lived together for any extended period of time since I was 17. Spying that friend a few rows back must have been a warming response for you in an obviously chilled setting. I do hope that warm memories of your “3” mothers will comfort you in the months ahead. I never had the privilege of meeting Dave but I realize how special a person he was for you and the family. Thank you for allowing us to share some of your deepest feelings.

  13. Renee, Having heard many of your stories from the past, you have my most sincere sympathies for having to face a person who had become a virtual stranger. I’m so glad you had the strength to pay your respects to your “mom”. And it’s great you have your loving family for support. Love ya.

Leave a Reply to shelley Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.