Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Funerals

The older I get, the less inclined I am to do things I don't want to do but somehow feel obligated to do.  I mean, is a distant cousin whose child is celebrating their first birthday going to notice that I didn't show up for cake & ice cream?  I don't think so.  Although I will miss the ice cream, (I rarely turn down any excuse to have ice cream.) I won't miss the kid being tired and cranky from all the excitement and the other hoards of kids running around like banshees screaming and being little effing brats because their parents let them.  Some family functions are welcome, others are avoidable, and then there are those that are totally unavoidable...like funerals.

Seems like lately all I do is go to funerals.  I know it's something I shouldn't complain about because after all, there but for the grace of God, go I.  And I know I should be ashamed of myself, and I am, for feeling inconvenienced by being obliged to attend the services.  The latest one was yesterday.

I forced my son to go with me.  This is my only child...sole fruit of my womb...who is going to have a birthday later this week...who is in his late 30's...who has failed to marry and reproduce.  The Husband's children have also failed to marry and reproduce.  The only one who has supplied us with grandchildren is my stepdaughter (not the Bad Seed stepdaughter) who I don't get to see often enough.  Sometimes I tend to dwell on the fact that my son isn't married with children...actually, if I'm being honest, I dwell on it more than I should.  It is his life, after all...everything really isn't all about me...but it should be.

So I managed to guilt my Baby Boy (BB henceforth) into going to the funeral with me.  I couldn't manage to guilt him into driving though...and it was about a two hour drive...so I took the truck...since it's more comfortable than the Toyota...and I'm old & all about comfort.  The drive down was pretty easy peasy.  We made it to the church on time...early even...then we sat around...for a long time...at least it seemed like a long time to me...and I know it's not all about me...but it should be.

The first portion of this service was at the Mormon Church.  I point this out because there were actually three parts.  The dearly departed (DD henceforth) was Mormon (though I don't believe he was a practicing Mormon...just guessing...because he did drink alcohol...regularly) and his widow is Catholic, very devout. 

Act I - The Viewing:

I've never really understood the reason for "The Viewing"...personally I think it's probably some odd ritual started by someone with necrophiliac tendencies.  Who else would want to look at a dead person?  I mean, really?  I don't get it.  Do they want to do it so they feel grateful they're still alive?  Sort of a "thank God it's him and not me" sort of feeling?   I really don't want my last memory of someone to be of them laying in a coffin dressed in their "Sunday Go to Meetin'" clothes with an "at peace" expression artificially formed on their face.

And that's another thing I start wondering about.  What kind of person dreams of becoming a mortician?  I know it's all kinds of wrong but the necrophilia word keeps popping into my head.  And is there a category of humor called "Mortician Humor"?  Do morticians play little subtle jokes on the grieving families to get around the boredom of their job?  When they're getting the DD ready for "The Viewing", do they play with different expressions other than the "Mona Lisa" at peace expression?  For example:

The Grimace - DD placed with his head slightly turned, lips together stretched disapprovingly in a straight line like he's just heard someone say something entirely inappropriate....

The Hearty Guffaw:  DD laying with his head thrown back tilted slightly to the right, shoulders slightly raised, smiling mouth wide open in death defying laughter...

The Look of Surprise:  DD laying with his eyes wide open, hands raised palms facing up, and his mouth shaped in an "O"...as in OMG you scared me..(please don't imagine a blow up doll here...that's an entirely different expression)...

The Look of Horror:  DD laying on his side with his head turned slightly looking over his shoulder, eyes wide open like "The Look of Surprise"...only scared..mouth open in a silent shriek.. like he's trying to get away from whatever's in the casket with him...

The Look of Hmmmm:  DD laying on his back head tilted slightly to the side, eyes open with a furrowed brow, index finger placed against his mouth...sort of a "How'd I get here?" look.

I bet morticians do stuff like this.  I bet they put clown faces on them too when they're practicing the whole hair & makeup thing.  I bet DD macho men occasionally end up looking like drag queens when morticians are bored.  Can you imagine what would happen if they accidentally left the DD with the "Look of Surprise" on his face when the grieving family arrived?  I know it's wrong on so many levels but I actually laugh at the thought of this.  I digress....

"The Viewing" seemed kind of like a pre-funeral funeral...there was a "special room" with chairs lined in neat rows (no pews).  It was a standing room only crowd so I was watching from outside in the hallway, but it seemed to me that people were just getting up willy nilly

Act II - The Actual Funeral:

This portion of the funeral starts with the Bishop (roughly the equivalent of Preacher/Pastor/Reverend for non Mormon denominations) thanking everyone for attending the DD's celebration of life...no longer is it a mourning of their passing...it's a "celebration" of life.  Sort of odd to celebrate someones life when they can't be there to celebrate with you...just my opinion...and it hardly seems like a celebration without adult beverages...again, just my opinion.  I think it would be more appropriately called a "remembrance"...just my opinion...for the last time...at least in this paragraph.

And why don't they ever say anyone "died"?  Why do they always say passed on?  Sometimes you'll hear people say "my cousin passed"...I know what they mean but it always makes me want to say "passed what?"  I think you should just say "my cousin died"...again just my opinion.

After thanking us for our presence the Bishop asked us to sing a hymn.  Now, having spent a good portion of my youth being forced to attend church, I've never been fond of hymns. (I hope this isn't some form of blasphemy.) I know this is going to make me sound totally racist, but white people have really boring church.  If I ever decide to start going to church again, it's going to be a church with some spirit...and good gospel music.  There are very few white people in the world who can sing gospel...just my opinion...but I'm right about this.  If I have to listen to a bunch of old white people singing "Bringing in the Sheaves" one more time....I know I'm getting a little off track here and just to set the record straight, it was a different hymn.

Another prayer, followed by the death speech aka/Eulogy.  This is where the designated non-clergy person talked about the DD...and talked...and talked...and talked...you get the idea.   Now there were a few funny moments in the death speech but the problem was that there were too many long pauses.  Again, I know it's wrong on so many levels to get impatient about this, but I did.  Never mind that the death speech giver was a grieving family member...who was paying his last respects to his DD family member...who was probably fighting back tears...now I feel like pond scum for even admitting the fact that this made me impatient.

Following the singing and praying, it was time to go to the Catholic cemetery for interment.  I whispered to my BB "Lets go say good by to DD's mom & sister & then we'll leave"...alas, a hasty exit was not in the cards for me.  When we walked up to my brother to say our good byes, LB (Little Brother) says "Are you gonna ride over to the cemetery with me?"  I looked at BB...trapped like a rat..."yeah, ok" I said with a fake smile pasted on my face.  I'm such a wimp...

Act III - The Cemetery:

We made it to the mausoleum in one piece in spite of my LB's efforts to kill us.  This was a Catholic ceremony and as such, there were definite rituals to be observed.  It was uber formal...like all Catholic ceremonies.  The first Catholic ceremony I went to was really interesting because I had no idea how they worked...I never knew that Catholic services had audience participation speaking parts other than Amen...who knew????  Live & learn... The mausoleum was made mostly of marble...marble floors, marble walls, marble crypts...and there was a bathroom right off the gathering area.  It was one of those "handicapped" types for a single occupant.  When you open the door, there was the toilet right in plain view of the funeral audience...which happened...while I was standing outside the door...and it was occupied and in use when the door was thrown open...  The guy opening the door was as surprised as the guy using the toilet.  And I started laughing...and I couldn't stop...and then I got nervous because I couldn't stop and that made me laugh more...I had the church giggles for the first time in my adult life in a church (okay it wasn't actually a church but it was close enough...and services were in progress...) Oh, I've had them in other places, but never in a church since I was a kid.  Kind of brought back fond memories of my mom poking me in the ribs with her elbow for laughing during prayers.

After a little ritual and more prayers we stood & watched the casket being placed on a hydraulic lift and hoisted up third row from the top, into it's designated slot.  My brother wanted to put a 49'er sticker on the casket to annoy the DD who was a die hard Rams fan, but he didn't get the chance.  LB can be so inappropriate at time...we all laughed...to ourselves...inappropriateness must run in the family.  People were starting to stare.

Finally it was over.  I have to say during this final ritual, there were two women assisting the priest with his various rituals.  One of them would describe for the audience members lacking in Catholic traditions, like myself, each phase of the ritual...both of these women were dressed in navy blue suits.  Ill fitting navy blue suits...with white gloves...very unattractive...I wonder if it's a new nun costume?

Anyway, toward the end the one doing the ritual description asked the pallbearers, who were also wearing white gloves, to remove their gloves and "place them gently" on the casket.  Was it really necessary to tell them to "place them gently"?  Was she afraid one of the pallbearers would rip off his gloves, smack them down on the casket, and say "Later dude"? 

That was the last "Act" of the funeral.  Now we had to drive back to the Mormon church so we could all gather in fellowship...and eat...potluck style. My penchant for food kicked in and all thoughts of leaving early to head home vanished.

There was Mac & Cheese, sliced roast beef, ham, cheese, rolls, salads, little smokies in BBQ sauce, desserts, desserts, desserts...I did eat some of the other stuff before the desserts, but only because nobody else was taking desserts and I didn't want to be the only one gorging my fat face on the oh so bad for you but wonderful tasting sugary concoctions. 

A word to the wise...always make sure your little smokies are heated...the little smokies in BBQ sauce hadn't been heated.  I didn't know this until I popped one in my mouth...and was instantly disgusted...it was like a cold congealed wad of greasy goo in my mouth...I wanted to spit it out but didn't know if people would see me do it...so then I'm in a quandary...do I spit or swallow???  Hmmm...I'm probably not the only one who's ever faced this decision...it's the stoopidist thing.