“I did not go over for the funeral. I had good reasons, to me they seemed good, anyway, having to do with our old mother, and the shock of it, and how far away it was, across the ocean. Really, it had more to do with the strangers who would be at the funeral, and the tenderness of my own feelings, which I did not want to share with strangers.”


I’ve never faulted our parents for not attending Amanda’s viewing and memorial in Tucson. Months before the viewing, I had already bought them plane tickets to visit me on the east coast. They were to arrive just 14 days after the day of the viewing, 22 days after learning their oldest daughter had taken her own life.

Once I’d arrived back home, I began to plan the memorial. Because our parents stayed with me for months, we got to talking a lot during my planning. Our mom had no desire to attend the memorial. Our dad was entering year three of his serious depressive episode, the first twoish years of which plagued by paranoid delusions. I had taken over his care and he was still trying out new medication. It was jointly decided that they would go ahead of me to California to arrange the inurnment.

In large part our parents’ absence from the viewing had been the result of the unexpectedness of there even being a need for a viewing in the first place. Their absence from the memorial I helped form into plan and effectuate. So I have no objective reason for faulting them for not being in attendance. But I felt emotionally compelled to do so much right away, I also never understood why they could just seemingly so easily have stayed away.

And now, 13 months after the memorial/inurnment, 17 months after my sister’s death/the viewing, I’ve just stumbled across the passage above that provided me a view into the reason(s) why someone might choose to miss the funeral/memorial/viewing of a loved one. Reading has long been great to me, but occasionally it grants me a precious and rare treasure, and that is the gift of new emotional understanding. I’m incredibly grateful for unexpectedly gaining some perspective. I know this much: keep communicating and keep learning, we’ll all be the better for it.

From “The Seals” by Lydia Davis

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