Even the government doesn’t send soldiers with their family into a war zone, but I felt forced to pay respect to my father by entering a combat zone. Just like the colorless, odorless, invisible gas of carbon monoxide silently envelops the innocent, I felt attending my father’s funeral would be shroud in rifts, open old wounds & set me up for ambush. I began debating whether my family & I should attend. Could my siblings put aside their bad feelings out of respect for our deceased father? Would I be treated as an outsider? Would I regret it if I decided not to attend?
Originally I considered enter quietly with my family at the graveside service without drawing attention to the fact that we were present. However, my paternal aunt talked us into attending visitation. I was pleasantly surprised by the support & sympathy provided by my extended family, most of which were completely unaware of any estrangement. For my immediate family our gathering was far from a Norman Rockwell moment. For the most part my siblings & I put aside our differences out of respect for our grieving mother.
My brother disarmed his hot buttons, took off his amour, laid down his weapons & requested that we talk privately, but I refused asking if this was the appropriate time & place. Completely taking me by surprise, he asked to give me a hug. Again I declined. My brother wanted to apologize to honor a promise made to our father earlier in the week. Knowing I could be walking on a land mine, I told my brother that I was reluctant to re-establish communication & certainly didn’t want to remain entrenched in drama. I expressed my desire to foster a more mature, adult relationship with him. I reminded him that we won’t always see eye to eye & we will disagree in the future. However it’s important that we don’t say or do things we’re going to regret. Finally I thanked my brother for taking an active role helping our parents & recognized that watching my father’s declining health 24/7 had taken a toll on him. Eventually we hugged. I’m hopeful, but I still feel like I will always be in his crosshairs.
While I was talking to my brother, my sister stormed out of the funeral parlor, slamming the door. Her adult children were close behind like baby ducks following their mother. They returned shortly afterwards & nothing became of this incident other than several perplexed looks from others. Honestly, I was emotionally drained & completely unprepared to deal with my sister, especially considering that I learned of our father’s death through her passive aggressive behavior on Facebook. Needless to say we were unable to reconcile & our estrangement remains firmly intact.
A black cloud hung over all of us on the day of our father’s funeral. Losing a parent is one of the most significant losses anyone can experience in their lifetime. My father’s funeral was a poignant reminder of estrangement, unresolved grievances & their effect on our family. As long as my mother is alive, I will remain tethered to my siblings. While it’s true we cannot chose our family, we can choose how we respond to them. Estrangement is not easy, but time has made it easier to deal with & accept. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband, who along with his family provide ample support.