Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Who Put the F-U-N in Funeral?

My friend’s mother died a week ago Tuesday. She was almost 80 and had been in declining health for several years. Standing on the outside looking in, I would say that her mental state and general health issues were such that it would be very difficult to not feel relief at her death. Sadness, certainly. Grief, absolutely. Guilt, probably, because there is still that relief.

I went to her funeral Tuesday. A few random thoughts about it.

1. Is it better to go to a funeral when you’re overall happy with your life or when you’re already miserable?

2. My friend has three kids. The oldest is nearly 11. One of his best friends was brought to the funeral by his friend’s parents. It occurred to me that it’s better to go to a funeral “in training” before it’s for real. My first funeral was also a training one. It was for a friend of my mom’s. I was 17. I had vague memories of the woman who died, but I was quite removed from her. I had no emotional connection, so it was good rehearsal for the future funerals I would attend: one of my good friend’s (at 19) and my father’s (at 25).

3. The funeral Tuesday for my friend’s mother was at a Catholic Church. I was immersed in the faith as a child, so a lot of it was recognizable to me. Most recognizable? Four old white priests. It really would be much simpler all around if women could be ordained, don’t you think? Oh, right, we’re tainted or something.

4. My friend’s mother definitely drew the good priest for her service. He was compelling, funny, articulate, and interesting. I even said to myself, “Hey, I could go to this church if I could attend his services.” God, in His infinite wisdom, did not strike me dead on the spot. To avoid risking that further, being a good recovering Catholic, I did not partake of the communion.

5. We would all be incredibly blessed to have led such a life as my friend's mother did. She touched many, many people. She taught inmates at San Quentin. She taught pregnant teens. She made a difference. That's what we're here for, right? To make a difference?

6. I can’t say this often enough, “TURN OFF YOUR FREAKIN’ PHONE WHEN YOU GO TO A FUNERAL.”

7. And, if you’re old, you might want to keep snarky remarks to yourself. “Well, that’s different,” said in response to the son’s eulogy, really echoed around the church. Stained glass and high ceilings probably don’t provide the best acoustics for stage whispers. I turned to stare at the offender behind me just so everyone else would know it was her and not me.

8. About 15 months ago, I went to a funeral of an altogether different ilk. The dead man was just 46, having died 12 weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While I cried a few times today during the funeral Tuesday, I never stopped crying during his. You’d have thought I was his mistress. He had five kids, with the youngest 10 and the oldest 19. Living until two weeks shy of 80? You can’t beat that.


Anonymous said...

Funerals are definitely weird functions. I remember when my father died, I was hoping for something more quirky than the usual service. He would have appreciated it. But there is all this pressure on you to do it properly and buy the "expensive" coffin, etc. I think those guys who march around in New Orleans and play music right after someone dies have the best idea.

mitzh said...

Why did this post made me smile and giggle at times. I think I'm bad...

But you just have a way with the things you write.

I remember my cousin's funeral when we were about to do the procession to bring her to her final resting place, as everyone was crying and others are wailing, the band (yes, my cousin's family rented a band to play for her funeral. I don't know why)started playing Sha La La by Vengaboys and I started laughing and everyone was looking at me, as if I just lost my mind or maybe they think I'm so insensitive.

But who wouldn't laugh at that?

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

What a great post Patois. I'm with mitzh. This post made me sad and smile. But ultimatley your title said it all, who did put the FUN in FUNeral?

And who is the moron with the phone on!! :)

Sian said...

Funerals are weird and I always cry at them even if I didn't much like the person who is being planted.
I want a wake for mine. Get the beers out and have a laugh, tell stories and have a damn good howl too. Get it all out of the system.

And anyone who brings a phone to my funeral will be me if necessary :)

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Kind of an amazing coincidence here. My mother's friend (who was like a mother to her and a grandmother to me) passed away this past weekend--similar circumstances of failing mental and physical health. She didn't want much of a to-do as far as funeral services, which I'm grateful for, for my mom's sake--especially since I can't be there.

Your observations are right on and very similar to things I've wondered/experienced at various funerals I've attended. Uncanny really.

Sorry for the loss in any event; always sad even when it's a relief.

Jeni said...

My Mom and Grandparents always took me -it was "expected" - to funerals and/or viewings from the time I was very young. Two of my closest friends growing up (still are close friends today) never went to funerals or viewings as children and when they got older, realized at times it is somewhat of a societal requirement to pay respects, etc., they had this inordinate fear of being in the presence of a dead person. I have never had that. I raised my kids the same way I was raised - you go to viewings or the funeral if it is at all possible.
Granted, I have a lot more years of experience in this area than you -I'm "OLD" ya know -but having had that "training" so to speak, it has helped me to deal with some funerals that were really rough - two suicides; several close relatives and friends from cancers that claimed their lives way too early, to folks now in my age range (60's) and up. Yes, I can relate to the grief and relief too though -did that when my own mother died of cancer and was in such horrific pain that even a coma and the strongest pain killers known were not enough to quell the pain racking her body. Definitely a relief there for her. Dealing with death though, funerals, viewings, etc. is every much a necessity for people as is learning simple good table manners, other social skills and the like. And, the best funeral I ever attended was for my cousin's husband and the dinner after the funeral when those present were asked to speak of their memories of him - lots and lots of humor mixed with tears there but it is a good way to begin the healing process that way too. Everyone took away such good vibes that day remembering what a great man, great friend he'd been ya know.

N. said...

"Well, that's different" is really the grand daddy of all passive aggressive statements.

How about baby steps with regards to Point 3? Let priests get married. Permitting them to marry women (or men) would really increase the pool of men (and eventually women) interested in taking vows. Just a thought.

PLUS I've tagged you for a meme!

Linda said...

I've mentioned this to Jeni before - I think that funerals need to be held before people are dead. I think people need to know while they're still alive how many lives they've touched, how many people think enough of them that they would show up at a function in their honor. I sincerely hope that we get to attend our funerals before we head off to wherever we're going though I have no idea what I would expect at mine!

You're right, though, a couple weeks or months shy of 80 is a hell of a lot better than only 46. A life well-lived can be celebrated, a life cut short needs to be mourned.

jenica said...

i like funerals.


i mean, it's awful when someone dies before they should. and believe me, i cry until my face puffs up.

but funerals like the one you went to? love them. you get to celebrate the person. you get to analyze your life and where you stand. you get to see family and friends you don't normally see.

maybe i'm just morbid?

Gina said...

I have to say I have only been to perhaps three funerals. People in my life are incredibly long-loved, apparently.

However, my granparents are close to the century mark, so I need to steel myself.

Scribbit said...

Oh, I was at this funeral once and the lady in front of me had "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" going off on her cellphone. TWICE. And she got up to answer it with it ringing down the aisle. Crazy.

Jillie Bean (AKA Bubba's Sis) said...

TOTALLY agree about the cell phones. How RUDE!

And I agree about practice funerals - my first funeral I ever attended was my grandfather's - I was 22. I was inconsolable. And a little bit scared.

cjm said...

Great post. Sorry I'm a little behind. I'm not sure about #1. I've been putting some thought into it and I just can't decide. I like the idea of a training funeral. Unfortunately my "real" ones started at age 6 so I didn't get that opportunity. My father was very good at talking me through it, though. I could have written #4. I, in fact, use the term "recoving Catholic" myself. #6 makes me want to slap somebody. Why, why do we have such terrible phone etiquette?

You know, basically I think our culture is a little weird about death. It happens. Every day. And yet we hide it away. We see it on TV all the time and it's no big deal. But, like my friend who recently lost her daughter said, "Why aren't there stores that sell urns?" There are stores that sell birthday party things and wedding items but other than hugely overpriced funeral homes, you get nothing. And so many people who are involved in the industry are so sleezy. Shame on them. Ok, end rant.


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