I don’t want this to sound morbid, but I have attended so many funerals that I’ve almost developed a classifying system for them.
There are the personal ones, that you have to attend. Those are family and very close friends. They are mostly sad affairs. Seldom are we ready to lose those people. While they are sad, there can be moments of joy mixed in.
There are the ones that are children and there is never a way to put a happy face on that. Those are always sad, heart wrenching affairs. They haven’t got to experience nearly enough of what life has to offer.
Then you have the ones that are for very old people. Those I hardly ever feel true sadness about. They’ve either lived long joy filled lives or they lived too long sucking the joy out of everyone around them. The ones that have been sick for a very long time, may not have lived the quality of life they desired nor did the people around them.
There are the funerals for the really sick. While there is sadness, there is also a happiness knowing they are now pain free.
Long funerals are never that enjoyable, nor are they meant to be. They become your punishment for showing up. They should never be made tedious by going on and on saying the same thing over and over. Once the field is plowed, park the tractor.
Then there are the funerals that turn into a super productions. Those I usually enjoy. The super productions are the ones where a lot of family and friends get up and tell stories and let you know what that person really did in life or how people felt about them.
You have the really quirky ones. Things that happen that are either so astonishing (like Winfield Scott’s funeral I’ve written about), or the music is so bizarre that you leave there and laugh all the way home or you’re so stunned by the events that you can’t speak.
If you are a preacher and you’re preaching the funeral of a scoundrel, don’t get up there and smear lipstick on a pig. It just makes you look foolish to say things that no one in the chapel believes. You don’t have to run them down but at least don’t blatantly lie to the crowd. You aren’t getting paid enough to do that. You have to go home and look at yourself in the mirror and then show up for church on Sunday.
When I go to one that really is so superbly done, the speaker is so dynamic and spellbinding you are inspired by what was said, that you start thinking death won’t be so bad if that person does my funeral. Those particular preachers have a talent that mixes humor and realness with the occasion. I can’t imagine going to a funeral and it being enjoyable without a little humor mixed in.
I have heard some of the best stories ever recited during eulogies at funerals. My manta is this: go out and do things in life that will give the preacher something good to use at your funeral. There is no sense in people coming to your funeral being bored. Be so dang nice to everyone around you that there are only good things said or get crazy every once in a while and leave a mark on the landscape.
Being ornery isn’t the worst thing either when it comes to your funeral. I’ll always remember what the preacher, Linvel Baker said at my daddy’s funeral. One day he, Linvel came by to tell Cecil that the fence between them was in bad repair and he’d like some help fixing it. To which Cec said, “I don’t run cows on my side so if you want that damn fence fixed get down there fix it”. Well Linvel headed off to fix the fence, maybe with his tail between his legs, but it wasn’t long until Cecil showed up to lend a hand. Everyone laughed, because that was Cecil Lewis in a nutshell.
3 thoughts on “@@@My Own Take On Funerals”
I agree with all that you wrote about funerals. I’ve been to several different “types” of them in the past few years. Generally, when family members have spoken, things have gone well, and occasionally, when the clergy have spoken, things have gone VERY badly (not always, but when things have gone off track, it was usually the preacher who did it.)
Two of the funerals I attended had some strong military presence, a naval honor guard, even though the people we were seeing off had done nothing more than served as draftees or in the ROTC in the 50s. Each died sometime in his 80s, but all of the saluting, folding the flag and, in one case, a 21 gun salute, made it appear that each had fallen in battle!
At the most recent funeral I attended, I enjoyed all of the laughter, some of it occasioned by stories told by the adult children of the guy who died.
Thanks for putting all your thoughts together like you did.
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When my Dad passed Mom was an emotional wreck. The funeral director was trying his best to be somber, sympathetic, and professional. I sort of interrupted his persona. I told him of three workers that were tearing down old 1940 era barracks. They were fire traps, thus laden with asbestos. One worker didn’t wear his protective respirator device. After a period of time he eventually died from lung related issues. Then as serious as I could I told him that “It took the Funeral parlor three weeks to cremate this individual”! His eyes bulged, he but his tongue, and turned red trying not to laugh. I’m not sure if Mom was listening to my discourse!
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Sometimes you have to lighten up the moment