The mother of a friend of ours recently passed and we recently went to the service to both mourn and celebrate her. She was the matriarch of a large family with six kids, and umpteen grandkids and even a couple of great-grandkids. She was lucky enough to die surrounded by her kids and some of her grandkids, some holding her hands, touching her shoulders, patting her knee, standing in the corner… there to see her off.
At the funeral itself, we saw the family and, golly, they took up a whole row of pews all by themselves. Front pew to the back one. One of the lady’s younger brothers was a priest and he officiated over the full Mass.
Dozens of relatives, dozens of friends, dozens upon dozens of friends of relatives. The internment was family-only and we were lucky enough to be asked to help take care of the flowers and make sure that they were set up properly at the house of our friend (who, still living in the same city as her mother, was the central command post for everybody who had flown in from all over the country).
After moving all of the flowers inside, I happened to check the fridge and saw that they were good on food but short on dessert so I ran off to the local grocer’s and picked up six kinds of Klondike Bars and some Choco Tacos and some low-carb ice cream options. The family wake was going to last a few more days and there were a *LOT* of cousins.
It was one of those funerals that makes you say “okay… that’s one of the best possible endings to a person’s story.”
And that made me think about other funerals I’d been to… too many, it feels like. Some were great and left you feeling like you were somehow lucky to be part of the close of the story of someone very lucky themselves. Some were less good. Not because the person wasn’t someone whose funeral you would go to… but because they were waaaaaay too soon, or too unexpected, or even merely officiated by someone who you wouldn’t want officiating the opening of a shoe store.
The good ones had people get up to tell their stories of the dearly departed. The bad ones had this side of the family still upset with that side of the family over stuff that happened three funerals ago.
And even though you know you should be thinking about the person who is being eulogized, it’s hard to not think something like “I wonder what my funeral will be like?” There was a recent story of a wake where the deceased was put in his favorite outfit, sitting in his favorite chair, with his favorite snacks on the table next to him, holding a game controller and looking like he was playing his favorite game.
When I was a kid, everyone was buried in their Sunday Best. Even if you never saw them dressed like that outside of weddings or funerals.
I suppose it’s good that people can be buried in their comfy outfits rather than something to keep up appearances. I know that *I* want to be buried in jeans. (Or just kept in them for the wake if cremated.)
I’d hope that the funeral service itself be interrupted by the coffin being rolled into the room halfway through. “Sorry, he got caught up in something.”
I’d hope that there are people laughing and people crying and maybe a fistfight, but a tasteful one, and after it’s broken up someone will say something like “Oh, they just loved him so much” and everybody laughs and then cries again and manages to have no hard feelings by the time it’s time for the next funeral.
And, until it’s time for that one, get back to the regular goings-on of muddling through the dash.
So… what’s on your docket?
(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)