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.