Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kittyboy's first funeral

I chanted a funeral today, my second ever and it had been several years since the last, which necessitated a call to my dad last night to make sure I would have the gender right for Meta Ton Aghion and Eonia Imnimi. And Husband had to work, so he dropped us off with the car seat and Kittyboy was, by default, with me in the front pew chanting. Let me just say, the Kittyboy was spectacular for being three years old, bored, tired, hot, sleepy, hungry and thirsty. Especially the three years old part.
The funeral started at 11, for one of our church's yiayias, Irene Gagaoudaki, may her memory be eternal. I didn't know her well - I remember when her sister passed away in Greece, she brought candles for everyone in church for memorial prayers. Her health had kept her from attending for some time. I'm sure Kittyboy didn't remember her, if he'd ever seen her, but I told him she donated the icon of the Annunciation that he likes so much (one of many facts I didn't know until this last Sunday). Kittyboy sat fairly still and quietly until about the Gospel, and then he started bouncing on the pew and then started tugging at the book, so I showed him word by word what Father was reading, and that worked for a while. Boy also sang along very loudly with every thrice-repeated Lord have mercy, which I tried very subtly to discourage because I didn't know what the family, RIGHT behind us, would think, but of course Kittyboy knew better. Then the service was over, and after everyone else had gone through the line to say their goodbyes, I picked up the Kittyboy so he could see her and explained that her body didn't work anymore, and so she had died, and we were saying goodbye. And he said bye-bye. So we stood outside with Presbytera, who was to be our ride to the cemetery, and waited for the casket to be brought out, and a man came up to talk to Kittyboy. He said that Irene worked with kids (another thing I didn't know), and that she would have been so happy to hear a little boy singing at her funeral, because she loved children.
So it was a good thing that Kittyboy was singing after all!
Naturally, he was fascinated by the casket and hearse and all, and how funeral processions (strangely enough) do not go whee. And we go through red lights! We had a conversation that lasted from church to the cemetery, which at 20-25 mph was a good trip, about bodies and souls and dying and burial (of the body that doesn't work anymore) and that I have a soul and he has a soul and Daddy has a soul, and all human beings are created with souls, and those don't die but bodies do, they wear out and quit working, and all that, and he is going to sound like one morbid preschooler for a while, because he was fascinated and talking about guppies and goldfish as well (which we bury in my crown-of-thorns's pot), which don't have souls but do die and get buried, and my heavens, the phrases with which he may be randomly greeting checkout people. Three-and-a-half is SUCH an age. But I think it's all explained well enough now.
At the cemetery, the man who had talked to Kittyboy at church asked if he wanted to sit on his shoulders, to which Kittyboy of course jumped up and down on his tip-toes with his arms up. For the burial service, I couldn't see them, but I could hear the giggles wandering back and forth behind me from about six feet off the ground.
I promised him we would come back to look at headstones and read them and all. "And this says? And this says? And this is? And that says! And this says?" He liked the cemetery. We have to go back. Perhaps I have a future mortician, or cemetery caretaker or some-such.
When we reached the restaurant for a fellowship meal afterward, it was about 1:30. He'd been roughly three hours without food, drink or BATHROOM. Amazingly, he was still clean and dry, woohoo, perhaps potty-training is making an impact? And he was very patient about wanting a drink. He had very patiently asked, from the cemetery to the restaurant, "I want a drink? I have a drink pease? I will have a drink now." He got orange juice, and had almost drained it by the time the waitress was done passing out waters, so she got him more. He had fried calamari for the first time ever, LOVED it, snitched from mine after he ate his, and was just very, very good. And any time his mouth was unoccupied, he was singing something over and over and over and over, which I finally identified as the "Lord have mercy" I sang during the funeral.
Got home about quarter til four. Watched Toy Story 2. Boy did he earn it, that was a LOOOOONG DAY, with lots of having to sit still and be quiet and a long stretch of no food or water, and a meal in a restaurant RIGHT at nap time, all of which he handled exceedingly well. Our first in-depth discussions of mortality at the three-year-old comprehension level also went well - allowing for the fact that death may now be the new interesting subject...
And we have to go back to visit the cemetery where you bury the bodies that don't work anymore (as opposed to the ones that still work, and therefore are alive, and therefore not buried, which is why HE is not being buried, had to clear up that point because he thought burial would be cool) and where we then put really awesome stones that say things over the burial places, so that we can read what all the stones say and talk about the people buried under them.

I am very tired. So is the Chanting Funeral-Director Boy. He is in bed.

I love all the hymns from the funeral service, but I think my favorite part is the Epistle reading, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. I want to memorize it - "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words."
All of the service is beautiful, but the Epistle is what sticks in my mind, and I remember when Grandma Sandy was in the hospital after her stroke last year - the awful, surreal weekend we spent in the hospital in Missouri saying goodbye - these words played in my head in a continuous loop, "We do not mourn as those who have no hope."


Tena said...

I am also amazed at how well he did, knowing as many preschoolers as I do! Your description of what happens when people/things die was very good, I've been using something similar with James when it's come up. It's great to see another mom with a similar way to teach a kid about it!

Mimi said...

May her Memory be Eternal and good job, Kitty Boy!

Anonymous said...

Memory eternal, and well done Kittyboy (and Mom!)

Your stories about him are gorgeous. He sounds a lot like a friend of mine's daughter (she's a bit over two) is like with Church - when she first learned to talk she used to ask "pame'kklesia?" (we go to church?) every morning when she woke up. She looooves Church, and singing.

She sees the priest and says 'pater, pater!' Six months ago or so we had a bunch of priests come for a talk and she wandered into the middle, looked awed and said very slowly "pater...HELLO PATER!"

I want my kids to love Church as much as these ones do :)

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Three-year-olds can surprise you sometimes!