Memorials in Sweden are exactly the same and completely differen

Yesterday was Barbro’s memorial. I had been incredibly nervous. It’s been so long since I’ve spoken Swedish. And my Swedish is not a very grown up language. But my friends Gunilla and Erik had helped me with language for the eulogy. so by the time i had read/rewritten/read the eulogy about 10,000 times, my Swedish was getting better. The one thing I didn’t want was for my pronunciation and phrasing to get in the way of the meaning of what I had to say. (oh, and of course there’s that little grief problem!)

I’ll have pictures tomorrow of the siblings and the coffin. Odd you think to have pictures of a coffin? It’s just so different. Very simple wooden box. And then a blanket (maybe 8 inches deep) of beautiful summer flowers in pink and blue and purple. A few people had sent flowers, but they were so simple, not the big displays we have. One of her friends sent an armful of flowers and this sweetly personal note to Barbro about what a good friend she’d been, using Barbro’s pet name, which I hadn’t heard for years. It seemed so right that the note be to barbro.

I’ve been wrong about the church (or rather and, isn’t this a surprise, wikipedia has been wrong). There’s a wall from the 1200s and most of the church was built in 1748. Very simple cross shaped small church. It was only family, but that still was 30+ people and the way the seats are laid out, it felt just right. (Just FYI, there WAS a bathroom and it WAS accessible!)

The churchyard was gorgeous. The graves were mostly family graves, so they were large. many of them had dirt or gravel on top which had been raked into simple patterns. The very old graves list not just birth and death dates but also professions. So you see not only who they are, but how people in this area earned a living. (lots of boat makers and attendant industries!)

The priest was very friendly and warm. There were lots of songs. 3 solos and 2 hymns. (Somewhat unfortunate that they weren’t hymns anyone knew and music wasn’t provided. No one sang. When we talked about it later, one of the sisters said that swedes don’t really sing in church even people who go!) Little Mozart, little Handel.

It went so well. Mamma would have been glad I think. And the family seemed glad and surprised to remember Mamma as a woman who forged her own life. It’s sometimes hard with an older person who has suffered as much as Barbro did during this last year, to remember that before, there was so much more. I got to do my work for a woman I loved deeply. It feels like such an honor. I’m grateful for the gift, for Barbro and for my Swedish Siblings who have knitted me into the family.

Let me recommend sending a child abroad to be an exchange student to every parent out there. You never know how it will change your life to have family everywhere in the world! (Oh, and Steve, honey bunny, I invited Cecelia’s daughter home to study with you before she goes off to music school. Thought I’d tell you here where you can’t protest!)

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