A Grave Throught

I went to a funeral yesterday. The deceased was the wife of my husband’s friend–a very lovely woman–but in truth, I barely knew her.

Over the course of my life, I’ve attended more than my share of funerals. In fact, my daughter once observed that our family only went to funerals, never weddings. It’s not exactly true, but it’s close.

For obvious reasons, funerals generally stick to a specific theme. The deceased was a wonderful person who filled the world with love, and though they are gone. They have left little love bits in the hearts of all who knew them. Every person who crossed the deceased’s path has been blessed with a love bit and should rejoice.

The question is: Should we really rejoice? Are funerals really supposed to be happy events?

Are we really supposed to take something sad and put on a happy face?

Sometimes I think it would be better to put on the black garments and just let the wails loose. That’s the way it used to be. You acknowledged the terrible loss, you didn’t pretend it was a joyful passing. Way back in time, people hired professional mourners, rent their garments. It was a spectacle.

I’m not suggesting that we rip up our little black dresses. Actually, today a lot of people don’t wear little black dresses to funerals. Casual dress seems to be the fashion. I still go formal, as does my husband (dark suit, white shirt, dark tie), but we’re old fashioned. It just seems that funerals are a way to let our emotions out. To be real with one another.

When my mom died twelve years ago after her long struggle with lung disease, I knew deep down that she was no longer in pain and for that I was grateful. Mom had always been such an active, outgoing person, and being confined to her bed was torture. At the same time, I couldn’t celebrate her passing. I missed her. We were close, and losing her was like losing a piece of my heart. It took me time to recover. No platitudes about it being a happy day made me feel better. The only thing I wanted to hear was, “Yeah, this totally sucks. I’m sorry.”

Fortunately, I did hear that. From my friends and family. From the kids she’d taught (she’d been a teacher for twenty-three years). I got notes and letters after she died from people telling me how sad they were that she was gone.

I needed to hear that. Somehow knowing that her passing was a loss to others made me feel less alone.

Funerals are tough whether you want to make it a celebration, or you just want to mourn the loss of a loved one. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. That’s why I’ve decided when I go, I want to forego the funeral completely. Put my ashes in a box and throw me out to sea, put me in a coral reef, or scatter me in the wind. Then go have a drink.

I won’t care. I’ll be long gone.

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