This Weekend Took A Lot Out Of Me

March 18, 2008 at 8:27 am 15 comments

Taking a detour from our regular topics here at Hearts, I am compelled to write about my friend Craig who passed away recently and whose memorial I attended Saturday.  I ought to put the word memorial in quotes because it was not a memorial.  Only his sister spoke.  She eulogized him and told the story of his life, and her idea of others participating was to raise your glass when you heard her speak of the era in which you met him.  I was speechless at how this minimized the other people in his life and how this enabled Craig’s family to control the content of the memorial.  There were about 100 people there and only she spoke. 

The elephant in the room was that Craig was gay and his sister and his family were not about to even look in the direction of the elephant.  So, when she mentioned how Craig had gone to college in the mid 80’s at how at that time he had worked in a coffee bar, that was my time to raise my glass.  That was how I was able to honor my friend at his memorial.  I sat there while I heard her minimize his personality, his creativity, his brains and smarts, his passions, and whole entire fields of his life. 

She minimized all the things that she and Craig’s family didn’t identify with therefore, enabling them to feel more comfortable. 

I had prepared a short bit to say at the memorial which I carried lamely in my hands until I fully realized that no one would speak at which point, I tucked it away back in my purse.  During the eating part of the evening, I approached Craig’s brother and asked why it was that no one else spoke.  “We felt that there were so many different groups of people here, that we decided not to do that and that others could memorialize him by sharing stories amongst themselves.”

I felt like I had fallen to the bottom of an elevator shaft when he said that.  There it was, utter proof of editing Craig’s life, even in his death.  “But, feel free to write down a special memory of him in this book…”  I was handed a small, attractive notebook in which I was supposed to encapsulate my feelings.  I pulled out my paper that had what I would have read, and stuck it in the book.  Three other people had written in it. 

Now, his family has always been kind to me and I’ve spent quite a bit of time with them over the years. (Over 20)  They know that Craig and I had a deep, lasting relationship and his sister said several very kind things to me before the memorial about how much I meant to him and he to me.  She had told the people at the funeral home that Craig had, “Not left a wife, but he had left a Tina…”  So, she knows that I and many, many others were aching and mourning for her brother’s passing.  Why was there no storytelling?  Laughing over the shared lives and experiences?  Why was that all brushed under the carpet?  Craig had not lived with being ashamed of being gay, but his family had always struggled with that and other parts of who he was, like the things that sometimes accompany a gay man’s life.  Craig was an artist in everything he did.  He wasn’t one to be put in a box.  His home, his clothing, his choices were of a person who was a true individual.  They called it ‘artsy’ which in its own way was their version of ‘weird’.  These things and more were threatening to his family.  The memorial was all about putting him into a box.  Their box.  The memorial was their memorial to their version of his life. 

I went with another dear friend of Craig’s.  We had the same reaction to the event and did our best to honor him that day and the next by telling our favorite stories and remembering things about him that we loved as well as things that annoyed us, or made us laugh.  We were outraged for him.  I went to bed very late and just before wakening, I had a dream in which I was talking to him.  In the dream I am able to talk to him, even though he has already died.  I asked him, “Wow…how are you doing?”  and he answered in a steady, regretful voice, “This weekend took a lot out of me.”

I woke up and said aloud, “I know it did….I know.”

I love you Craigeee…



Entry filed under: cancer, Family, Friends, rants.

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Suzanne  |  March 18, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Tina, THAT was a beautiful memorial to your beautiful friend. I’m so glad you visited each other you in your dream.

    Big hugs-

  • 2. Michelle  |  March 18, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss… laughing until you cry is the best memorial. That and dancing down the street to jazz music – which I imagine would not have pleased his family either.

  • 3. Jackie  |  March 18, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Tina, I am also sorry for the loss of your friend. Your post was touching and I’m sure Criag is peeking in on your blog and can see your beautiful words.

    Hugs x

  • 4. Sang-Shil  |  March 18, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes.

    Beautiful and sad.

  • 5. Lisa B  |  March 18, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank God your friend had a friendship/family with you and others that loved him for ALL that he was and is still for you.
    I too have witnessed this type of edited/ conditional love from the families of two friends in their lives and their deaths.
    I am proud to say that my brother Richard was memorialized at his services (and every day of my life) for the whole and amazing human being he was. Artsy, talanted, excentric, exotic, beautiful, generous, sensitive, hilarious, intense, fiercly loyal and gay.
    You may have been stifled on that one day, but know that what matters is what was real between you in the world of your life together. I am sure you do know this. I’m just saying Don’t let them get you down!

  • 6. Tina  |  March 18, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Thank you so much everyone. The support here has lifted my spirits very much. I absolutely adored him and it’s hard letting him go, and the memorial experience has made it that much harder. But coming here to write it all out and then getting such heartfelt feedback has helped.


  • 7. Andrea  |  March 20, 2008 at 5:24 am

    So sorry to hear about your friend’s passing and the memorial that wasn’t.

  • 8. Tasha  |  March 20, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I have this painting in my living room that says “my life has a wonderful cast of characters. I just wish I knew what the plot was.”

    I’m sure Craig would have appreciated how his wonderful friends (cast of characters) had written his life story’s plot.

  • 9. tapsalteerie  |  March 21, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your disheartening experience. Funerals here are weird things. There is no eulogizing at the actual funeral… that seems to be saved for later back at the family’s home where everyone piles into every inch of space available, eating the piles of food that the neighborhood/church/friends & family have brought and talking about the good times and the memories. My memories of funerals are, I hate to say it, fun. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve reconnected with people I’d forgotten about….
    But all of that to say… everyone gets a chance to say their bit. Even the kids. So being denied that… I can’t imagine! At least you were able to have your own private version with your friend… although it seems woefully short of what your friend seems to deserve.

  • 10. Tina  |  March 22, 2008 at 1:50 am

    Thank you Shea! The thing is, there was no funeral. This was strictly a memorial. I’ve never been to a memorial where the memorializing was left out on purpose.

    i’m still not over it. And you’re so right about what he deserved. Anyway, I wish his memorial had been more like what you describe, but alas….no.

  • 11. Denise :o)  |  March 23, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    I’m so sorry ro hear of your loss. He sounds like a wonderful man and he’ll be missed by many. ((HUGS))

  • 12. Shannon  |  March 27, 2008 at 7:07 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a very special guy. I hate that his family couldn’t see all of him that way. I’m glad that he had you though!

  • 13. mamagigi  |  March 30, 2008 at 9:00 am

    It’s very sad that even in his passing, your friend’s famiy couldn’t embrace all of him.

    Your words here do him justice though, and something tells me that he loved you so much because of your wholehearted relationship with him.

    These are the things that surely made him happy and you being such a part of it makes the biggest mark.

    I imagine that sending a copy of this to his family wouldn’t make a dent, albeit it small, in the wall they’ve erected.

    Alas, all you can do is love him and share your love of him with others.

    And that, Tina, you’ve done here quite wonderfully.

    Even in his death, you continue to be a very good friend.

  • 14. Eve  |  June 11, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Tina, ah, it did my soul good to read this today, even though it is heartbreaking. We’re going through a loss with our son-in-law, whose father died Monday. The way his step mother is handling the situation is very much like your friend’s family handled their son and brother’s death. The whole memorial is being tightly controlled and it’s just so tragic. That sort of control helps no one to transition with a loved one, does it?

    I’m sorry you lost your friend.

  • 15. screamofcontinuousness  |  June 12, 2008 at 10:19 am

    that is so sad that his family would do that. how awful.


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