A Death in the Family

Lately, I have been consumed by the concern over my mother’s deteriorating condition (due to Dementia) and the arrangements for her passing. She can no longer live independently – her bad days gradually outnumbering her “good” days.

But, having an ordinary relationship with my mother has been difficult.

·        A divorce when I was twelve, meant that I was raised by my father and his side of the family

·        My mother’s wildly emotional swings from being overly generous to being unduly demanding

·        Her aloofness from me, my wife and her grandchildren

·        Her paranoia of my dad’s supposed influence on my attitudes

I mean, my mom just wasn’t the kind of mother who would take you on her knee and read you fairy tales (More likely a slap.) She often times would treat family as strangers and strangers as family. Yet, I have always loved her – despite everything – and knew she loved me. Let’s just say it was inferred, if not stated. I just considered it to be somewhere in the ‘fine print’ of our relationship … a genetic mother and child contract.


Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

So, I have mixed emotions that previous understandings and arrangements regarding her pending funeral are now being challenged by her side of the family – because of their past conversations with my mom – which seems reasonable. However, it also runs contrary to our understanding re: my mom’s wishes for a simple, private cremation.        

I’m sure their concern comes from an honest place, but what it would mean is that I, as Power of Attorney, would have to handle all the details of a large public affair. This expectation is being extrapolated from her comments that she now wants a ‘man of the cloth’ to officiate and say “say a few words”. (Funeral directors must see it all.)

My wife, as joint Power of Attorney, took on the task to explain our previous understanding to the other side of the family.

As a result of this conversation, a compromise has been reached, and we’re now planning a private ‘family’ ceremony – along with the coffee, tea and cookies, etc. In this way, her legions of friends would simply email their condolences to the funeral home, instead of actually attending.

Now, here’s the hard part: will I also “say a few words” … and what will they be?    

When my wife’s father passed away, there wasn’t any “priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, imam, swami, etc., it was just me … and I wanted to and knew just what to say because of the deep affection I had – we all had – for him, all through his life.

And so, I see two possibilities:

1.     Don’t say anything, or

 2.     Totally kill my attitude and realize that it is a celebration of her life, not about me, at all… though, I may have to re-read the ‘fine print’, mom. Let’s talk… let’s forgive!

 “I’m not a prophet or a stone age man. Just a mortal with the potential of a superman.” – David Bowie

Fred Parry
Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca (June, 2013)


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