Saying a final goodbye can often provide closure.
I never have had the closure I need so much when I lost Annie. She passed away in a foreign country and is buried there along side some of her extended family.
I did however get closure with Ellen. When Ellen passed, I got the word from her girlfriend Lisa. So soon after losing Annie, it was a devastating call. Lisa was frantic to find out what the final arrangements were going to be, but she was rebuffed by Ellen’s family.
In the end we decided that she should probably reach out to the agency Ellen worked for as a last resource. It turned out to be a good decision. Ellen’s director gave up the details under the understanding no one would know where it came from.
Ellen would be buried in the Denver area where her family now lived. Lisa and I agreed that we had to make the trip to say our farewells. We didn’t go to the service, but we hung out in the car at the cemetery and waited for them all to show up. It was a gray and drizzly day and when everyone gathered together, Lisa and I got out of the car and hung back under a tree not far away, but close enough to hear. The family saw us since we were apart from them, and it was obvious we were not welcome, as we were a part of Ellen’s life that they refused to acknowledge.
Even in death, her family refused to acknowledge her life and referred to Ellen by her birth name. Lisa was devastated by that insult. As the family was leaving, we could see the not so furtive looks aimed at us, but we did not shirk from their scrutiny. Once they all left we went over to the plot to say our own farewells.
It grinds on me still that the name on the stone is Ellen’s birth name, completely eliminating anything about her real life. Her family never knew the real Ellen and what a vibrant, beautiful woman she was. More importantly, Lisa has the closure she needs.