Death At A Funeral
This post thoughtfully combines two exciting topics into one. Think of it like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup full o’ love. I hate peanut butter. Why ruin it with chocolate? But I digress.
I’ve always wanted to plan my own wake. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. And this weekend I walked out on a funeral. Is there a way I can merge these ideas in a single blogging experience?
How To Piss Off A Guru…
…Invite him to a funeral.
Once upon a time I met a woman and fell in love. We were married. (That’s another story.) This woman had a friend. This friend was drama on wheels. Because I knew my wife I also got to know this friend. We’d occasionally get together and it would be “me, me, me.” Perhaps not the truest form of friendship but we had already invested our ante into the pot. Sometimes no matter the hand you are dealt you’ve got to hang in there for the showdown.
This friend had a father, and man I never personally met. In fact, I’d never even heard of him, although, if I had put my mind to it, I could have probably surmised his existence. This friend had to come from somewhere I suppose. But it was not the sort of thought that ever occurred to me.
“Hey, babes. You know that friend of yours? The one who is all needy and one-way and shit? You know what we should do? Introduce me to her father so I can hang out with him and get to know him. That way, years from now, when he passes, I’ll already be involved and have a reason to be there.”
Alas, we didn’t do that, either.
Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh. I did have a purpose. I was there to support my wife and she was there to support her friend. Even I can understand that much. So, climbing the steps up into a church, a did my guru best to put a positive spin on things.
“Look on the bright side. At least it’s not a wedding.”
When my wife had asked me to go with her, I didn’t hesitate. Of course not. I love this woman. Then she added, “It’ll probably only be 20 minutes. We don’t have to do the potluck thing after. Just 20 minutes. That’s all I’m asking.”
The problem with being a guru and being negative and being prescient is that when you’re right, you’re really right. 20 minutes? Give me a break!!!
“My grandmother is 20 minutes,” I said as if that made sense. “This thing? It’s gonna be at least an hour. You better get your head on straight, woman. You better start coming to grips with a little place I call reality. Make no mistake – we are in this.”
I didn’t know the guy and I barely tolerated his daughter. Now I was sitting in a church, 10 minutes early, no less, and my mood wasn’t exactly the best.
I looked at the flyer. “Stories from the Audience.” Oh. My. God.
We live in a world populated with me-only communicators. Talking about themselves lights up their brains so much that if you were to slice their heads open it would literally look like the Main Street Electrical Parade. We are deep in the shit now.
In the front of the church musicians were busy setting up. There were saxophones, a guy on the organ, trumpets, trombones and even a drummer. What the hell is this?
It turns out the deceased was a musician and had been in all sorts of bands. They were there to pay tribute to one of their beloved fallen comrades. Cool. At least this will be slightly interesting. (Positive thought warning. Bad omen.)
The funeral finally started 15 minutes late. One of the ham musicians loudly announced, “Bob would have understood.” Yuck yuck yuck. So funny. Not. The band opened with a boring big band era song. The average age in the room was 90. What had I expected? Then they played a second song. Ugh. Then a third. Ugh. Damn, I’m pretty open to different forms of music but this was so dull it made me want to die.
No one had spoken a single word about the deceased yet and over 30 minutes had already elapsed. I looked at my wife and tried to have a silent conversation with her but I don’t think she got it.
Did I mention me-oriented communicators yet? This was the perfect intro to the nine-course buffet that was to come.
Then an old guy who described himself as the “best friend” of the deceased grabbed a microphone and did the “is thing thing on?” bit. It was funny back in the 1920’s when microphones were shunned by the elderly as new-fangled contraptions.
This “emcee” was a piece of work. He was hammin’ it up, too. He clearly craved the limelight and the attention and to my shock and horror proceeded to make the festivities all about himself. Holy shit. This little human death ritual isn’t my cup of tea but even I was offended.
An other thing that offended me was late arrivals. People kept arriving later and later. 30 minutes after the announced start. 45 minutes. An hour after. Dumbfounded I’d check my watch each time I saw the deadweight shuffle in. I didn’t even know the guy and I had been ten minutes early. The record laggards came at 1 hour and 10 minutes. Holy shit! And people actually thought this thing might last only 20 minutes? What was going on here? Did they think they’d stroll in, make an appearance for the ending, then go get free foods? It boggled my mind.
I used to attend meetings of a local atheist group. We’d get together to discuss the culture wars, philosophy and other weighty issues. Until this one guy arranged a meeting place for us. He was a windbag. The sort who would hijack any topic and make it a 20 minute oration about himself. He would create moments beyond awkward when everyone in the room except him would be miserable. I felt for the moderator. He’d finally have to uncomfortably take action and it was never pretty. When you’ve only got the room for an hour these personal diatribes really hurt. People worked hard on presentations only to have them shit upon. The most interesting people in the room never had a chance to speak. I eventually ditched the motherfuckers because it was so the opposite of fun.
A funeral where you give people an open mic is like this only 100 times worse. You don’t even have a common thread to cling to. It’s just strangers talking about everything other than the one thing you do know: It’s not about the deceased. And as they drone on and on you can literally feel the life draining out of your body.
There were a couple of people who did it right and I was truly touched, although I had to wonder how much of that feeling I experienced was artificially manufactured from sheer gratitude.
Then they were going to show home movies of the deceased playing musical numbers but there were technical problems. What did the “emcee” do? Simply move on to the next item on the lengthy agenda to efficiently use time while the computer was being worked on? No!!! He decided it would be better to vamp a bit, to go vaudevillian on our asses and tell jokes. Egos on display!
The deceased and his family happened to be Jewish. We were in a Christian church. I couldn’t help but wonder how the venue was chosen? Was the deceased a member of this church, too?
Then the “emcee” told some jokes about Jewish people and how much they love money. This “best friend” was not Jewish himself. My wife was offended. I just figured he must know the family pretty well to know that they’d appreciate that kind of humor.
A man read something on behalf of the widow. He was the boyfriend of one of the daughters. After he finished his piece, we saw them get up and leave from their places in the front row. One of the man’s sons read something else. We saw our friend get up and leave. Then we saw the widow herself get up and walk out.
Come to find out later that yes, they had been extremely offended by the emcee’s performance. They referred to him as an “asshole.” Ahhhh. Humanity. Is there anything it can’t do?
About one hour in I had written a note to my wife. “Want to leave early?” I didn’t have the guts to show it and I stuffed it back in my pocket. Time no longer had any meaning and the smell of old people was beginning to get to me. My job was to be supportive and I reminded myself that was my purpose. I would get it done no matter the cost!
Finally, at one hour and 50 minutes my wife asked to see my watch. The end was nowhere in sight. I showed her the time. “Do you think we should leave?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied without hesitation. We waited for the next big band performance, she thought it would be rude to walk out while someone was speaking, and then we bolted. As we reached fresh air I had never felt so in love with her than at that moment.
I will not have a funeral. I will have a wake. And it will work like this:
- Start time will be announced.
- It will actually start one hour earlier.
- People will arrive to find out that it’s already over. They will be handed a note that says, “I cut the service short. This is my gift to you. Downstairs please enjoy a full-host bar and prime rib. Eat until you are full and leave when you want.”
I’ll be the most loved man in history.