Thoughts by Emily

Going Home: A Flag Covered Casket and Bagpipes at a Funeral for Grandpa

A post about my grandpa’s funeral is one that I have been meaning to write for a while, but the time just never seemed right. In my post, “A Death On Christmas“, I shared my experience of holding my grandpa’s hand as he took his last breaths on this earth. Sending a loved ones to the other side is a very emotional thing, and one that I seem to know all too well. I have now experienced sending off two people whom I love dearly; my daughter, and now my grandpa. I have already talked about the dying part of what I have been through, but I haven’t discussed the funeral. I believe funerals are a way to gather loved ones together to remember the deceased in a way that would make them smile from above. Even more than that, I think the funeral is mostly for the living. It is the sealing of what has happened. It is a way to let things sink in and a chance to say goodbye. I think grandpa’s funeral was perfect, and did just that.

Each of my siblings came out for my grandpa’s funeral, which was a real treat; especially since we had the funeral on New Year’s Eve. Not everyone was able to bring their kids, but it was still lovely to have them all here. In the days following my grandpa’s death, my oldest sister and I, along with my aunt, helped my mom make all of the funeral arrangements. We visited the mortuary, the cemetery, the florist, and took care of the nitty gritty details. It is always a challenge to deal with all of the important stuff after a loved one passes away. You just want to mourn or be with loved ones, but the important things won’t take care of themselves. I think my mom was grateful to have us girls around for these hard parts.

We held the funeral service at our church building, and finished up at graveside. My brothers and several cousins were the pallbearers, which worked out perfectly. The flowers were beautiful, and everything went very smoothly. Each of grandpa’s living children said a few words, and shared a few memories. My brother-in-law sang “I Stand All Amazed”, which I accompanied on the piano. I also played a piano solo of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. I was nervous that I would be too emotional to play the piano at my grandpa’s funeral, but I felt that it was something he would want. I have fond memories of my grandparents coming over for Christmas dinner, and after we’d finish eating, I would play the piano for them. This went on for years. Because grandpa died on Christmas, it just seemed very fitting that I should play the piano for him at his funeral.

Because my grandma was born in Scotland, bagpipes have always been a part of my family. None of us ever played, but they just kind of ring in our blood when we hear them. If feels a part of us. It is tradition to have bagpipes at a funeral for the Scottish and Irish folk. My cousin’s husband plays the bagpipes so it seemed very fitting that he should play at grandpa’s funeral; not only for grandpa, but for grandma as well. In full regalia, he led the pallbearers to the gravesite just like a traditional Scottish or Irish funeral. It was just beautiful, and I think it was a great honor for my grandpa to have had.

Because my grandpa worked with wood much of his life, we picked a simple wooden casket which was adorned with the American Flag. Grandpa was a Veteran of World War II where he was in the Navy and repaired fighter planes after they were shot up. We thought he would be proud to have his casket covered with the flag. I think the presentation of the flag, to my grandma, was one of the most touching moments from the entire funeral. When the service was over, the men from the funeral home folded up the American flag and presented it to my grandma. You can see from the photos that she was very moved, which in turn touched all of us in attendance.

With the casket now bare, each of the pallbearers and great grandchildren took a flower from one of the arrangements, and placed it on top. I don’t think we could have asked for a better way to say goodbye to grandpa’s body. The service was beautiful, and all went well.

Grandma, who is 93, is struggling quite a bit with living life without her partner of 71 years. We visit her often, and have had to retell the story of grandpa’s death numerous times. It seems that her dementia has gotten progressively worse without grandpa to keep her on track, and she gets very confused about where grandpa is. It is quite sad. Grief can be a powerful thing, but luckily grandma is blessed with many who love her, and her great grandchildren keep her smiling.

About the author

Emily Buys

4 Comments

  • A very lovely tribute to grandpa. And yes, I could not have done all that needed to be done without “my people” there. You’re such a support to me, as are all my children. What would I do without ya?

  • What you wrote is beautiful, and made me cry. I haven’t lost anyone close to me yet, but I know it’s just a matter of time. Anyway, beautiful funeral and beautiful post.

  • In the last 8 years I’ve also lost a number of people very close to me in my family, including a sister, nephew and mother. Your tribute was touching and memorable. I especially like the bagpipes, what a splendid addition! Hugs!

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