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The week before Dad's wake and funeral — suzanne-mcrae.com

The week before Dad’s wake and funeral

There wasn’t any time to pause after Dad passed away. We had just returned to our homes and we realized that many things needed to get ready for his wake and funeral that was to take place a week later.


It’s only been a few days since I first wrote about “My Dad’s passing“, and it has stirred up my emotions good. It took me a long time to write it between shedding of many tears. It brought me right back to those last few weeks that we had with him as he was getting ready to leave his life and his whole world behind. I was reliving the emotions and the feelings that felt trapped in my body since then that I hadn’t been able to process and release yet. And today as I write this blog post, its stirring up more emotions for me. Such is the process of grieving I’m finding out. But I very much sense also that I’m not grieving just my father’s death, but also many things in my life that have not been easy, all at the same time as his passing.


The week after Dad’s passing meant preparing the outfits we would be wearing for both the wake and funeral, for some of us it meant we had to go shopping. There was lawn maintenance and gardening to be done at my parents home, there was the music at church to figure out, the priest to meet, the funeral directors to also meet, the In Memoriam cards to figure out, the pallbearers, the flowers and lots of little details. The eulogy needed to get written up. Photos had to be gathered. We wanted a video tribute of Dad’s life, and the funeral home would then put the video together for us once we gave them all the photos. Several of us went about gathering the photos and looking into our albums, and sifting through hundreds of photos on our computers. It didn’t seem like a big task, until we got started. There were a lot of little details to tend to that week. We were all back in our own homes, but it felt like we weren’t really there, because of all that we had to do. We all helped support Mom as best we could during that time as well. 

By mid-week we had about 100 photos gathered that we handed to the funeral directors so they could create Dad’s tribute video. At the funeral home they had a TV screen that was showing the tribute video during the hours of his wake. We sincerely hope that those that came to pay their respects to our family, that they enjoyed his video, especially those that knew Dad.

We were extremely pleased to have seen hundreds of people come out to Dad’s wake and funeral. Family, and friends, neighbours and people from all walks of life that knew Dad or us his family members. We thank you who took time to come out. It really warmed our hearts to feel supported in so many ways. We felt the love you had for him, the connections, memories and stories that many of you shared with us about Dad were all so special.


Here is the Tribute Video in celebration of Dad’s life, some of the many memories that we have of him.


Once I had sent all the photos to the funeral home, then my attention turned to Dad’s eulogy. I wanted it to be a celebration of his life somehow. This was something that felt really important to me, that his life, his presence in this world, and what he had left behind that it somehow be recognized and acknowledged.

I definitely wanted to be a part of being able to honour him, his life, and the legacy he was leaving behind for all of us. I felt that there was a possibility that I might be able to read his eulogy. So I went about asking my three siblings if they would be willing and able to come up to the front of the church if I read the eulogy. But they just couldn’t do it, they told me. I understood that it wasn’t something easy what I was asking of them. I still wasn’t sure if I could do it alone at that point. But I knew that I wanted to and that somehow the wish to do it would get me through. 

The days following his death, and probably even a little before, I started gathering memories of him, as well as gathering my own thoughts about his life. The task of honouring a person’s life as best as possible within a few short days left me wondering if I could pull it off in a way that I was seeing in my minds-eye. I wanted the eulogy to really show who Dad had been and the life he had lived for the 86 years. I wanted to paint a picture of who he was, even for those who didn’t know him. I was hoping that those who knew him would be able to smile and nod as I would talk about his life, knowing that’s who he was indeed. I had read online that an average eulogy is somewhere between 3-5 minutes. How in the world was I going to share about his whole life in such a short span of time? 


By the middle of the week after his passing, I hit a wall. I ran out of energy, and was so incredibly exhausted from the emotional marathon I felt that I had run the last month. I hadn’t been at home much during that time, instead choosing to spend as much of my time as possible with Dad at the hospital and the hospice in his last weeks and days. 

It was Wednesday of that week, and I hadn’t started putting the eulogy together yet. Yikes!! The wake was in a few days. I couldn’t even think straight, let alone begin piecing this all together in a way that would make any sense. I knew that I would need a day or two of just sleeping to get me back on track. I had completely lost my momentum. My daughter Amy, had previously expressed a wish to help with the writing of the eulogy. She was very close to my Dad. She was Grand-Papa’s girl, as Dad would often would tell her. They were very close to one another, sharing a special bond. When she saw how tired I was, she suggested that she begin piecing it together for me. She was able to think a lot more clearly than I was by then. So a few days later and many hours later, she resurfaced at 4 am the day of Dad’s wake… the eulogy was completed. She did an amazing job bringing all the stories and memories of Dad together in a way that made sense. It honoured who he was and the life that he had lived. We were both really happy with the result of how she brought it to life. I’m forever grateful to her, and that she did such an amazing job with writing his eulogy. He would have been very proud of his little girl!! 

That day I practiced reading it out-loud to my husband, then to my daughter. Sometimes I would break down and cry, other times I was reading it without crying. I felt nervous.

What had I gotten myself into?

How would I do standing there reading Dad’s eulogy in front of a church full of people the next day?

Why me? Why not me? All the thoughts in between that had been running wild.

Panic was setting in, but I knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t back down. I had to do this. I didn’t know how, but I knew that I had to. 

Later that evening after Dad’s wake, I called a friend who had offered to hear me practice reading it with someone other than family. She didn’t know my Dad, but by the end of me reading it she felt that she really knew him. She gave me a few tips that would prove to be extremely helpful the next day. 

Saturday morning came, we had Dad’s wake for an hour earlier that morning, then his funeral mass. I was invited to the front to read Dad’s eulogy within a few minutes of everyone having gathered for Dad’s funeral. My husband Gary accompanied me to the front. I was terrified of the walk to the front of the church, and that once there that people might hear my knees knocking together. There was no way that I would be able to look at the crowd as I read. All these fears had been running through my mind all week. 

The night before his funeral I had prayed. I asked for guidance. I had prayed to Dad also, asking him to help me deliver the best eulogy possible the next day. I needed his support. I asked him to be my side in Spirit. My prayers were all answered. The walk to the front of the church, up to the microphone was fine, my knees didn’t knock as I stood there, but my heart was pounding so loud that I thought that the people listening to me might hear it. It felt strange, but the heart-pounding let me know that my reading of the eulogy was being passed through my heart as I read it. Once I understood why the heart-pounding was happening, then it stopped. 

For 15 minutes I stood there feeling confident, in front of about 125 people, giving Dad’s eulogy. Time really stood still. I felt incredibly at peace and comfortable, even with the heart-pounding that went on for those few minutes at first. I not only read Dad’s eulogy, I was also totally able to look at the crowd, even zoom in on several different people. I was able to separate myself from the emotions I saw others feeling. It all felt so dreamlike to me this whole experience. It felt like I had done this a million times before, standing in front of a crowd and speaking. I couldn’t believe that this was me. I have never been able to talk in front of a crowd this way. No, not quite true, I have talked in front of large crowds a few times, but never when I had loss a loved one, but instead about our son, and autism. But that day, I did it, but I didn’t do it alone. I had so much divine support there with me the entire weekend.

I had also worried, what if I started crying and couldn’t stop for some reason, then what? I was concerned that my husband might get emotional up there with me, then what would happen if I couldn’t continue reading and if he couldn’t read for me? My mind was working overtime as you can tell, all for nothing. A few people reminded me that the people that would be listening to my eulogy, they knew that my Dad had just passed away. And they would know that if there were tears, that it was to be expected considering the circumstances. 

I read Dad’s eulogy with only one emotional bubble that surfaced. I don’t even remember what triggered it. I feel that it was all about the whole experience of losing Dad, as well as having been able to honour him like I was doing that all came for me to feel in that moment. I paused because the emotions wanted to be there, I couldn’t push them back down. My husband held my hand and this brought me great comfort. I was then able to continue with the eulogy.

After his funeral several people came to tell me, some with tears in their eyes, that this was the best eulogy they had ever heard. I smiled, knowing that Dad was probably smiling down on me and our family, feeling proud of us with how his life had been honoured and how we were celebrating him that day. I felt incredible joy!!

Having had the honour of helping to prepare and then stand in front of a church full of people to read Dad’s eulogy was the “greatest gift” I could ever have been given. I was incredibly blessed in many ways to have had the opportunity during those days to also relive some of those memories of his life, of his presence, and what he meant to me as a father. To have been able to give meaning to someone’s life, a man that was very special to me, the first man in my life, was a very special gift for me. I believe that we honoured him and his life well that day. We sparkled him and his life with so much Love and sent him off to begin his new journey. 

In my next blog post I will share with you Dad’s Eulogy that I read in his loving memory at his funeral mass, on July 22nd, 2017. 

I will leave you with this hymn that I’ve hummed non-stop the last few days, How Great Thou Art. A small choir sang it beautifully at Dad’s funeral.

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  1. Mary Dowdy says:

    Cher Cousine Suzanne,
    I knew that you could do this my beautiful cousin. God has given you the strength that you needed to get through the eulogy.
    Your dad probably had the biggest smile on his face the whole time that you were talking. I could see that grin from here.
    I love you all.

    • Thank you Mary. You are right, God did give me strength and courage that I didn’t realize I would have that day to give Dad’s eulogy. Thank you!! Lots of love to you. xoxo

  2. Germaine Jean-Louis says:

    It is quite the journey when we loose our first parent. You put it so well, every step as you lived it. I relate and remember the pain and memory that came and then the acceptance of grieving and letting go.
    I remember being in your shoes reading Claudette and Moms eulogy, my feelings were the same. I had forgotten and just moved on. You helped me remember my journey, I had know one to share it with that could relate. You explained so well.
    I feel honored knowing you.
    Ton amie xox

    • Germaine, thanks so much for sharing about your journey with your sister and your Mom in giving their eulogy. There’s a reason we have connected. We both know it. Your sister (my old childhood friend) has brought us together there’s no doubt. Thank you!! I’m glad that in my writing about my experience that it helped you to remember your journey. So much love to you!! xoxo

  3. Suzanne, the journey is not always easy, but you are definitely up to the challenge! I feel so blest to know and love you as my dear, dear friend! xoxo
    I may not have known your Dad, but I feel I have come to know him just a tiny bit through the pics on the Tribute video…

    • I love and appreciate Marge that you got to know my Dad through just those few pictures in his Tribute video. Thank you so much dear, dear friend. So much love to you. I appreciate your unconditional support always. xoxo

  4. Beautifful post and video. Sending love. <3

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