My wife’s grandfather passed away last week. The funeral is tomorrow and we’re heading back to Green Bay for it. We were just there for Thanksgiving and planned to go see him for lunch on the day he died.
It always strikes me that I don’t have much experience dealing with death. I haven’t lost many people close to me, and I haven’t been to many funerals.
I’m reminded of some thoughts on grief from Melanie Walby at a recent event I attended:
Continue reading Murray Trudell, 1925-2019
Not everything happens for a reason. Some things just suck.
Life will still be good, it will just be different.
Last weekend we went to the funeral of Abby’s uncle, Lee Erlandson. It was a whirlwind 32-hour trip:
- We intentionally picked a hotel with a good pool to give the kids something to do. Turns out Milo is suicidal around pools. He’d just walk right off the edge into the water, not even attempting to jump or push off at all. I thought he was going to crack the back of his head on the side of the pool, never mind the whole toddler drowning thing.
- We had to explain a funeral to Lexi, who was still trying to process Jesus dying and rising again from Easter. Not a good combo.
- Lexi had also been watching Beauty and the Beast in the car and wanted to know who killed Uncle Lee and whether or not he was a princess. Thankfully we had that conversation in the hotel and not at the funeral home.
- Lexi managed to sit through a 75-minute service with a minimum of interruptions and outbursts. Milo, on the other hand, spent most of the service outside with Abby. Yes, we were those weird people who brought kids to a funeral. We actually had no babysitting options and thought it would be a much shorter service. In retrospect, I think sitting through the service with a 4-year-old brought some levity to the whole thing (though I’m not sure if anyone else felt that way).
- And when did McDonald’s get so swanky? We stopped for a quick break and enjoyed a little Nickelodeon on the personal TVs in our cushy booth. I was tempted to bring in the laptop and check out the wifi with a little frappuccino. OK, not really. But it was an option.
- I know I’m not good at smalltalk, but I’m really bad at funeral smalltalk. I think “So how’s it going?” was the first question out of my mouth to just about everyone. Including a brother and son of the deceased.
What I found especially thought-provoking was the funeral itself. The service stretched on so long because they opened it up for anyone to share memories about Lee (open mic at a funeral?). I didn’t know Lee very well at all—I’ve only seen him a handful of times—so it was interesting to hear coworkers, friends and teammates share their memories and impressions.
Continue reading Hotel Pools, McDonald’s and a Funeral
My wife’s grandfather, Winston Erlandson, passed away on Wednesday.
Since local newspaper web sites are notorious for not leaving content online, I’m going to reprint the obituary here. Unfortunately the obituary doesn’t tell you much about who Win really was (obituaries never do). I didn’t know the man very well, but he was genuinely kind and gracious. He struck me as a stereotypical grandpa, joyful and fun.
I never knew quite what to call him, in part because I met him at that time in my life when it became appropriate to call adults by their first names (I grew up calling adults Mr. and Mrs.), but also because “Grandpa” seemed so fitting. I ended up oscillating between Win and Grandpa.
Some of the best details the obituary leaves out were that Win enjoyed square-dancing with his wife and had season tickets to the Green Bay Packers. I imagine those tickets are in the will. And yes, square-dancing, as in big hoop skirts and ‘twirl your partner round and round.’ Win and JoAnn’s 50th wedding anniversary included square-dancing and they often traveled to square-dancing competitions.
One of the things I learned from Win (and JoAnn) is that we don’t need so much stuff. They encouraged the family not to give them gifts at Christmas and to instead make a donation somewhere. I loved that idea and when we talked with them about it they were incredibly practical—saying in effect, “I’ve been getting gifts all my life, I’ve got everything I need.” We’ve been doing that with all our grandparents since, and this year we’ve started doing a version of that in our immediate family as well.
Win’s death wasn’t a big surprise as he’d been in declining health for a while, but it’s never easy. I am thankful that he didn’t spend a long time in and out of the hospital. While it’s sad to lose him, I am looking forward to the funeral and the chance to celebrate his life and memory. My favorite memory from my own Grandpa’s funeral was sitting around his kitchen late at night laughing with my extended family.
Continue reading Winston Erlandson, 1927-2008
My grandpa died last week. I pulled these thoughts together for the funeral, and read them to a packed house. I had the whole place laughing, and I think that’s the way Grandpa would have wanted it. The words may not mean a lot to you, but for me they capture my grandpa.
I remember spending summers in Kansas with Grandpa. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and now I live in St. Paul and take the city bus to work everyday. Spending summers in Kansas was a bit of culture shock.
I remember waking up early and sitting around the kitchen table and listening while Grandpa and my mom sipped coffee and talked. The Hutch paper was always spread across the table, and inevitably, the conversation would turn to me.
“He probably fails all his classes, don’t he?” Grandpa would ask. A slow smile would spread across his aging face as his gaze shifted from my mom to me.
Continue reading Eulogy for my Grandpa: 1922-2002