Closure. That’s a word that people use frequently when it comes to losing someone and the grieving process. As someone who has been a fairly strong “J” on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), closure is fairly important to me, as opposed to someone who might be a “P” on the MBTI, they pretty much can move from situation to situation without much closure at all. But closure when it comes to losing someone is fairly important, especially when life moves fast and the loss feels somewhat surreal.
Sometimes, having one service for someone who has died is hard enough. Having two services can be downright unbearable, especially if the services are months apart. The closure that you might have felt after the initial service can feel incomplete when everything gets reopened for the second service. It’s almost like having a scab and deciding that you want to pick it off just as it begins to really heal.
The decision to have a memorial service for my father in Connecticut was not a hard one. We had done the same thing for my mom. Both of my parents were well-loved in my hometown of Darien. They were known through their positions and through their kindness. Dad knew so many people in town and Mom had established herself as a great teacher’s aide in the public school system. There were not many people who were able to get down from Connecticut to be part of either of the funeral services for my parents.
My mom’s memorial service was held right around her birthday, 2 months after she died. It seemed appropriate to do similarly for Dad, having his memorial service around his birthday, a little more than 3 months after he died. The church where he served for 36 years was gracious enough to let us use the sanctuary and even dedicated their recently renovated front stone steps in honor of my dad.
It was the first time that I had been in the sanctuary since November 7, 2010, the day that my parents left the church for the last time. That was a little less than 3 years ago and life has changed significantly since then. I would be lying to tell you that there weren’t any hard feelings deep inside me regarding all that had taken place. It’s always hard to watch it when our loved ones go through difficulties, and watching my parents struggle in their last years in Connecticut was no exception.
I consider myself a fairly objective person, able to recognize my own subjectivity and yet check it enough to be able to assess situations reasonably well. My parents were wonderful people, I loved them, but just like the rest of us, they were broken and fallible, in need of the grace of a Savior. They were prone to mistakes and had their own faults, just like the rest of us. As I’ve mentioned in this blog in the past, I know that there are always 3 sides to every story. To think that I would have heard the objective truth about all that had taken place from one side or another would be downright naïve.
So, the delicate part becomes how much to talk about, how much to reveal, and what the final outcome will be. Those of us who are strong J’s on the MBTI have a strong sense of justice and like to see justice served. Our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses, so there always needs to be a sense of self-assessment when seeking justice. I was not going to simply go and pretend that nothing had happened in the past that had deeply impacted my family. That would have been lying.
At the same time, we are called in Scripture to speak the truth in love. In speaking truth we don’t do it out of a sense of justice, to pay people back for mistakes, but out of a sense of seeing others continue the process of sanctification that God brings us through. We sharpen each other and call attention to certain things that others might not be aware of.
When we made the decision to do the memorial, I honestly had no idea what I would say. I wasn’t sure how much to say. How much was appropriate? How much would actually be heard? How much would actually be received?
My father was a very gracious man. He saw the good in everyone, even when they had screwed him time and time again. He showed me how to forgive, not simply with words, but with actions that spoke louder. He had forgiven so many people in his lifetime and did not hold grudges against the hurts that had been caused to him. That characteristic was not lost on me as I thought through my comments for a service that was to honor him, but more importantly, that would honor Jesus.
In the end, I think my dad would have been proud. He would have understood my need to say certain things and yet he would have appreciated the sensitivity with which I worded things, delicately enough to bring it to light and yet not so harsh that it felt accusatory.
Of course, no matter how delicately you might think you are speaking, you still manage to offend. It’s never a pleasant thing when you get scolded in the receiving line after your father’s memorial service. In my opinion, it was a case of misunderstanding and misperception. Time will tell whether or not the need to clarify the issues is strong enough to actually circle back and have a conversation. Will it be received? Will it be beneficial for both sides? Does it bring further closure? There’s that word again.
My brother texted me the morning after the memorial service and he used the word “closure” too. It seemed that it was a good fit for our situation. The anticipation of this service had been weighing on me since the moment that I knew that it would happen 2 months ago. The anticipation was great enough for me to have thought long and hard about it and to have lost sleep over it.
I said what I felt needed to be said and I felt that I said it delicately. I honored my fathers, the earthly one who is gone and the One that I have in heaven. I pointed to the One whom my dad served his whole life, the One who has shown us grace and extended us the salvation that we could never conjure up on our own. I pointed towards Jesus Christ, the reason that we grieve differently, that we have hope beyond hope in what will be.
One day there may be room for more conversations. There may be exclamation points instead of question marks. I may understand better 2 sides to the story in an effort to decipher the 3rd side. In the meantime, I will continue to journey through the process of grief. Today, there is a little more closure than there was before. Today, is one day further away from when I lost my dad and one day closer to when I will see him again. The aftermath of it all is that I’m one step further than I was before, one step further down the road of grief, and one small step into closure. I’m not closing the book on my dad or his memory, but I am closing the book on the grief and loss that I have experienced, allowing it to turn into anticipation, anticipation in the hope that Christ’s resurrection means more to us than anything else in the world. That may be the best aftermath that I could ever experience.