Back when my now-wife and I were dating, her grandmother passed away. She invited me to come to the funeral, which was of course a bag of mixed emotions. I was sad for her and her family at the loss of her grandma; I was happy to be invited; and I was nervous because this would be the first time I met most of her family.
When her grandma passed, I expressed condolences. The last thing I wanted to do was make her grandma’s death about me in any way, and we had only been dating for a few months at that point. But she did ask me to go to the funeral, so I went.
I met quite a lot of her family that day, and tried to find a balance between being helpful and staying out of the way. After the funeral service was over, it came time to have the funeral procession to the burial site.
The plan was for my girlfriend’s dad (whose mother it was that passed away) to ride in the car with the immediate family of the deceased. The rest of us would follow in procession. There were some logistical discussions that I was not aware of, and it wound up that my girlfriend, her mom, and her other grandma were all going to ride together in my girlfriend’s dad’s car. He somehow decided that I should be the one to drive, so he hands me the keys and walks off.
Now, I should mention that this funeral is in Greensboro, a city I’m not especially familiar with. This was my first time meeting her grandma and really my first time being introduced to her family as her boyfriend, so nobody there save my girlfriend actually knew me particularly well at all. And of course this was a funeral. Yet I was the one chosen to drive. I feel like this event communicates the welcoming but also slightly intimidating nature of her family quite well.
Her mom did verify with me that I was actually comfortable doing this driving. Comfortable would not entirely accurately describe my state of mind in that moment, but I knew I could do it and it would be a service to the family, so I said I was fine.
To make matters even more complicated, it turned out that there wasn’t enough room in the family car for her dad, so he came back to ride in his own car. I assumed at that point he would take over driving duties. Nope! I was now responsible for driving him in his own car to his mother’s burial site.
Everything went well, of course. I ended up doing driving duties for much of the day, and I had some really good conversations with her dad and various other family members. It’s funny to think back on that moment, especially because now these people are all my in-laws and I know them and love them, but that moment had a very surreal feeling that sticks with me to this day.