Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Funerals and Family

"Some of us fall by the wayside,
And some of us soar to the stars,
And some of us sail through our troubles,
And some have to live with the scars"
   -- Elton John, Circle of Life

My grandma died last week, and yesterday I went to her funeral.

I've always sort of wondered how well I'll deal with death. My dad's parents both died when I was very young - I barely remember his mother. I think the last funeral I went to before this was for my dad's brother Bill, and that was... almost twenty years ago.

It's odd, because I'm such a mix of both strong emotion and strong logic, plus the fact that I've recently started on hormones, which I'm still getting used to; For the most part I've noticed that my range of emotions is similar to pre-HRT (Hormone Replacement/Reassignment Therapy), but I think I snap from one emotion to another more quickly.

I wasn't that close to my grandma, but I still have a lot of memories of her, and it will definitely be strange for her to be absent when I visit my mom, stepdad, and grandpa. Her health had been failing for quite a while, and her death wasn't unexpected. All things considered, it's curious how little its hit me most of the time, and how much it hit me at others.

I cried when I found out last week, which felt good. I've always thought that crying when you can is a good thing, but I haven't really had any reasons to cry like this in quite a while, and it was relaxing to cry over something I didn't need to try to control. I also cried a lot at the funeral, but I think what's probably hit me more than her death is seeing my family hurting, especially my mom, my grandpa, and my sisters, all of whom I respect tremendously.

I wore a button-up shirt and a tie, which is even weirder now than it used to be. The service was pretty, but it got me thinking about some of the things I'd like for my funeral:
  1. Have it in a church if you must. Talk about how you believe I've moved on to another life if you must (always prefacing with "I believe"), but please leave any other religious comments out. I will always have many friends with greatly varying religious beliefs, and none of them should feel alienated, especially since I'm agnostic and believe we really can't be sure what happens next until we get there.
  2. Don't waste space in a graveyard - just cremate me, and spread my ashes somewhere pretty, unless it's somehow more trouble that way.
  3. Nobody should feel obligated to dress up, and should come in their most comfortable clothes, even if that means ratty jeans or old PJs.
  4. There should constantly be upbeat music! I live nearly every waking moment with music, my death should be no different. Someone at my grandma's funeral sang the Circle of Life, which is a great example of a song that can be upbeat and still respectful. If you can, however, feel free to play anything I listen to.
  5. There should be singing, clapping, cheering, and enjoying eachother's company. Nobody should feel guilty about smiling if my death was a reason for you to come together.
  6. Leave a sign at the door which says "Cry. Nobody will think less of you."
Being at the funeral also made me realize how terrified I am of telling my family that I'm trans. I want them to know, because I want to be open about it, and I think they should hear it first from me.

If friends are the family you choose, then family are the friends you don't choose. I love my family dearly, and they are some of the most intelligent people I know, but we each lead very different lives, and hardly ever see eachother. Even so, seeing them made me realize that I still care a lot about their approval, and that it would still be a pretty big blow if they rejected me. The desire to tell them occupies a lot of my thoughts right now, and I know in my head that I need to just push through, but so close to actually doing it, the fear suddenly paralyzes me.

I decided months ago that the best way to come out to them is by giving them a letter to read in person, and waiting around to answer any questions, but every time I try to write the letter, it comes out wrong. *sigh* Oh well, I'll get there eventually.


  1. This made me think about what I'd like my funeral to be like too...When my cousin died last year it was really hard because he was only 30 but his funeral was so great because it was a sharing of great memories with him and afterward we all toasted with a 7 & 7...hi favorite was great...if that is a term to even be associated with funerals. I don't know that it is possible to fathom what you are going through with the trans revelation to your family...the only thing I can relate it to is when I had to tell my parents that I was getting divorced...but I don't think it is the same at all. I hope that they will read your letter (which doesn't need to be perfect!) and give you a big hug and ask any questions they have and then ask if they can help! I think it
    s interesting how you mentioned that in reference with your grandmothers you feel like part of you is dying (is that a weird question to ask? if so sorry) with this transition? Ok, longest comment ever...shutting up now! Good luck with everything my friend :)

  2. Long thoughtful comment = good comment. =P

    With regards to the segue between grandma and coming out to my family - no, I don't think it's because part of me is dying. Part of me IS dying, in a way, but I'm dealing with that separately, and it is definitely offset by the excitement of finally getting to know other parts of me. More on this later, I'm sure. =)

    A small contributor to the association is that my gradma dying forces me to consider my parents' mortality, and in turn my own, but mostly, it's because this was only the second or third time this year that I've seen the majority of my family. If I saw them more often, I'd probably have a lot more opportunities to just blurt it out during a high moment, like I've done with so many other people. =/

  3. Family gatherings always push these issues to the fore in my mind too, especially since almost none of them know I'm gay. Then when we're apart, it stops being an issue again. Since I see them so rarely, it's no surprise that I haven't made any advancements on that front.

    Like Heidi said about the letter, it doesn't have to be perfect. They're not going to be judging you on your writing, and honestly once they hit the part where you tell them you're trans, they probably won't even remember reading the rest. So maybe short and simple would be best, covering just the basics with the promise to talk about more when they're ready.

    I want to be cremated too. The idea of being preserved and buried is just weird. I haven't decided where I want my ashes scattered yet, but it will probably end up being a beach. As for the funeral, I believe that funerals are for the living. So they can do whatever they want which best help them cope with their grief.