Well, as I thought, I did end up skipping a day due to life, the universe and everything, hah. I’m pretty much recounting everything yesterday, as I saw it… so I understand if folks don’t want to read this. (Heads up, I’m trying to keep as few names out of this as possible out of respect for the fact that I haven’t asked anyone to post their names.)
Yesterday was an interesting day, truly. We got up early and headed to Matt’s mum and dad’s in order to get ready for the funeral. Getting there, I got to have a cup of tea with my favourite honey. I seem to always want a cup of tea while I’m there now, and I normally don’t like hot drinks but this honey? Sooo good. Straight from the beekeeper!
We all finished getting ready and waited nervously for the limo to arrive. When it got there, I had to fight tears seeing the hearse. The hearse led the way in our procession to the cemetery where we were having the service. I took a little snowflake obsidian orb that I have here on my altar at home to help a little bit just with grounding and keeping a hold of my emotions.
Once we got there, the driver of the limo actually took my sister in law’s car and parked it for us, which was really lovely of him. The plan was that Matt, his brother and his two sisters would escort Sarah while us (the partners) and Matt’s kids followed behind. Family solidarity, yo. Matt’s mum and dad went into the chapel with all the little ones.
I do have to say though, before we started our processional, it was OVERWHELMING seeing the number of people standing outside the chapel waiting for things to happen. We were all completely floored by the people who came to pay their respects, and I’m just sad that I couldn’t thank each and every one of them personally for coming. (So, if I didn’t speak with you yesterday, but you came – THANK YOU!!!! <3)
Going into the chapel and leaving Matt behind outside with Sarah and his siblings was super hard. I had to buck up for Mr 17 and Ms 15, which I did, but they already could feel me shaking. (We held hands as we walked behind the hearse). Entering, and seeing Matt’s mum and dad and the littlies sitting there and the pictures on the tvs and the decorations made my heart ache. It felt as if someone had punched me straight in the chest and I had to keep gasping for breath. I made sure that Mr 17 had an end place on the pew we sat on, and flagged down Mr 17 and Ms 15’s mum to make sure she was with us as well. I was determined that the kids weren’t left out of being with the immediate family during all this and I knew they’d need their mum as well as their dad and stepmum.
Simplicity Funerals were brilliant. The director, Ian, came prepared and ensured that we had tissues. As we sat ourselves, I found a box of tissues handed to me which I took a few and offered some to Ms 15 who was right next to me (clinging pretty hard, I might add! Hah.) Her mum had just handed her a whole packet, which was good. I knew she’d need them.
Then, Matt and his siblings escorted Sarah in. We all stood up and I could feel the laughter ripple throughout the room as “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake started to play. Those who knew Sarah undoubtedly could feel her spirit in the song choice, which is exactly what Matt’s sister was going for. They placed her on the bier in the middle of the room, and finally Matt made his way to me.
I don’t know how many people were watching and frankly, I couldn’t care. I hugged him as tight as I could and felt him shaking in my arms. I know he’d been trying to hold back just how shattered he’s been by everything but yesterday, there was no more holding back.
Ian had suggested to us in a meeting prior to Christmas about using Verity James as a celebrant. We had the opportunity to meet her after Christmas and before the new year and in meeting her and speaking with her, I knew she was definitely the right choice. Apart of her introduction speech, she mentioned just how loud we are as a family, and she was right. But she took that in stride and definitely used her years of experience in the public eye with MCing and public speaking to ensure that we listened to her and paid attention when necessary, and it’s really needed in this family sometimes. She was brilliant, and she has that beautiful and forceful personality that you need around a family like ours. Matt mentioned to me that he really wishes he could’ve had the opportunity to meet her outside of such a sad circumstance.
VJ ran the funeral wonderfully. The first speaker was a family friend who tried to pimp his sons out to Sarah’s ‘squad’ and that was definitely worth a few laughs and quite a bit of amusement later at the wake. I’m not sure how serious Ian was about it, but it was a bit of levity injected into the service which was sorely needed and definitely helped shape the morning. Matt’s brother and sisters spoke next, and they told a couple of stories about Sarah as a child, and made sure to let everyone in on the Konnichiwa, Mother Fucker! Joke that has almost become a family meme now. After the siblings were Sarah’s squad. Only two of them spoke, but they all stood together for support which was beautiful. I had to laugh through my tears as they spoke about how once Sarah befriended one of them, she then got 5 more and how she loved a bargain. (I didn’t stop crying the whole service.)
Last but not least came Matt, speaking from an older brother perspective. He had been trying to figure out what to say for the past few days. I had offered him all my love, support and help where necessary but I knew that he wouldn’t take me up on any of it because it was something he needed to do, it was something that he needed to create from his heart in honour of his sister. Before he went up, I asked if he wanted me with him and he said no, so I stayed with the kids. (Ms 15 and Mr 17 spent most of the service clinging to me, which really suited me ok. I needed them there too.)
I don’t remember much of what Matt said, truly. I remember the fire in his voice, the passion of his words, and how animated he was up there. I could hear his voice shaking, and see the shaking in his hands (and I’m so grateful his brother and sister ran up there to be with him when they did… I was moments away from it myself. The only thing holding me back was that I think he really needed to get through this on his own, in his own way.) You could feel him crying, and his words hit every one of us. I know the themes of what he said centred on regret, and cherishing the moments you have with your loved ones because you don’t know what’s going to happen… and how much he would give anything to have more time with Sarah. Actually, I tell a lie. He ended with something like “Here I am, a person who hates public speaking, speaking to a bunch of people who don’t want to be here about a person who shouldn’t be here” and it was awe inspiring and chill inducing. I think he could’ve rallied us to support almost any cause at that point had we been in different circumstances. I’m immensely proud of him.
After his powerful speech, he came back to sit next to me and I was crying harder than I had been. I hugged him again as tight as I could, and then we continued through the pictures of Sarah’s life. There was a song choice that had a bit of foul language in it, but it was truly Sarah’s anthem in the later months and she would’ve loved that the version we chose was being played.
VJ spoke a bit more about making sure you don’t live life with regrets and chasing your dreams, and she read “Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep”. Then, it was time to say goodbye.
Matt’s eldest sister at the time of planning everything had seen this beautiful idea of a coffin of a young girl that had died of leukemia being covered in goodbye messages in sharpie pen. The idea seemed perfect for us, so we stole it. We decorated Sarah’s coffin with butterfly stickers, and while many people were able to lay roses and gerber daises around the coffin, they could also write on it their final messages. While this was happening, Matt, his kids, their mum, and myself were all in the condolence lounge and greeting everyone, thanking them for coming ,etc.
I’ve gotta say here, and if she’s reading this like I’m pretty sure she might be, Ms 15 did an EXCELLENT job yesterday. I’m so proud of her… she’s such an amazing young lady. She ensured that one of her younger cousins was taken care of and had the love and support that she needed while the rest of us were doing what we needed to do. I walked back in to the chapel once to ensure that Sarah’s squad were ok and to give them hugs when I noticed Ms 15 and her almost-10 year old cousin standing at the coffin. Ms Almost 10 wanted to sign the coffin too, and draw a picture… and Ms 15 made sure she could and stood bye her while she did it.
I saw the coffin one last time as well when I escorted Matt’s grandmother into the chapel to have one final look as well. She touched a few of the writings and she said to me in this very soft voice “It’s very pretty, isn’t it?”
Yes, it was.
From there, after escorting her back outside, I left with the other partners to go to the tavern where we were having the wake in order to ensure everything was set up, and I was surprised to see that we were beaten there by a lot of people. We had hoped to get there early, but we were almost late!
The wake itself was a party, and it’s something Sarah would’ve loved to see. Family and friends stood and sat around, chatting and there were kids playing (Mr 17 did a FABULOUS job of hanging with Sarah’s son and making sure that they were entertained and looked after).
The rest of the afternoon was a blurry haze in a lot of ways as there was much wine consumed and lots of hugs, laughter, and catching up. The time for tears was now mostly over, and in truth, I feel as if a weight has been lifted. I won’t bore you with the little details but you could feel the healing starting among the room and you could feel the love and respect for Sarah in every hug, every conversation, every cheers. (And every shot.. ahem… ;))
It was a necessary thing, having Sarah’s funeral. In a lot of ways it still doesn’t seem real (well, after our family visitation, seeing her there and everything… I know now without a doubt that it’s real). And it doesn’t feel real because it’s movie material.
But for us, the first act is now over. It’s time to turn our hearts and minds into the second act and prepare for what will be quite a painful journey now, going forward. But I say this… I could feel Sarah there yesterday, and we all could feel her light, her love, and how much she enjoyed us celebrating her life and celebrating her.
(And, thank you to VJ, Simplicity Funerals, and Xpress Print. Your work was amazing and fabulous.)