November has come and the golden-red hope of Autumn is rapidly turning to bare trees and chilly winds. It is a cold time to lay a coffin in the ground.
We sat in a small chapel at the Massachusetts Veteran’s Cemetery in Winchendon, Massachusetts. Winchendon is the town where I was born, where I took my first breath outside the womb. Now it is the town where my dad’s earthly body is buried. The chapel at the cemetery overlooks a sloping lawn going down to graves lined up like hundreds of large dominoes, representing many families and uncountable losses.
My dad’s gray casket dominated the front of the chapel, a cascade of bright red roses on its cover. The service was short and scripted, a fitting service for a burial. I smiled at the salutes my father received from those military men in the audience. He would have loved it! Though we never saw him as a military man, his two years of service after high school afforded him a free education, a burial spot, and military salutes.
After a reception at a nearby church, a couple of us headed back to the cemetery. The dirt was fresh and a small marker indicated where the headstone will stand when it is ready. The flowers from the casket had been placed at the head of the grave. We stood silent. This was our final goodbye.
I have been wrapped in the funeral cocoon, a cocoon of safety, where you are somehow aware that this is not the time to truly grieve. It is the time for memories, family, a celebration of life, and a funeral, but it is not the time to grieve.
This funeral cocoon wraps around my mom and we marvel at her strength. But that is what the funeral cocoon does: It wraps you in grace and strength. Within the cocoon she can meet and greet countless people, respond to the constant ‘how are you doings’, eat and converse like she has a whole body instead of a body that she is supposed to live in even though it has been sliced in two.
Anyone who has experienced the loss that death brings knows well this cocoon; a swath of strange, numb comfort that envelopes the grieving.
The time will come when tears will fall until exhaustion takes over. The time will come to sit with the grief, to let it flow with abandon. The time will come to acknowledge the soul-deep ache of loss.
But for now – the funeral cocoon is enough.