It’s been a rough couple weeks for my family. We’ve lost three loved ones between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. It’s never an easy pill to swallow, especially around this time of year. As I was sitting in church today, I realized how most of these ceremonies are very much the same. I remember a couple things here and there about funerals I’ve gone to in the past, but, for the most part, there weren’t many things that stuck out in my mind…except one.
I know what you are probably saying, “I thought this blog was supposed to be funny! You’re not being funny right now!” Whoa – hold your horses, Honcho! First of all, don’t tell me what to do, you’re not my real mom. Secondly, I did not forget my vow – read on.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine lost his mother. I knew him better than my wife did and we had a young child at the time – for these reasons, I decided to go to the funeral home alone. I tried to get there early, this was sure to be a busy place – it seemed like everyone in town knew this wonderful woman. I was surprised. There were still a few parking spots left – I expected to be circling the place for a while. I took a deep breath, straightened my tie in the mirror, popped a couple pieces of gum, and exited the car.
I start playing through the typical scenario in my head – I hate this part. Nothing you say ever sounds right. All you want to do is say something to make everything better, but those words don’t exist. So I just think the sincere, “I’m so sorry,” paired with a firm handshake pulled in to the manly “bro hug” would suffice.
I enter the funeral home and see that only one of the three viewing rooms was open – no need to check the directory to figure out which room to go to. There’s also no line! That’s like winning the funeral lottery! It’s not easy or enjoyable to talk to the family during this difficult time, but I really hate trying to engage in small talk with complete strangers at a place where I really don’t want to meet new people.
I start feeling a bit more confident, I won’t have to wait and stew about what I’m going to say. I won’t have to have idle chit-chat with Aunt Beulah’s nephew’s neighbor’s gardner about his drive in from Sheboygan. I can just walk in, pay my respects, let my friend know I’m there for him if he needs anything, say a silent prayer, and leave the family with one less person solemnly watching them.
I sign the guest book, walk past the picture collages, and boldly march right up to the casket. I’ve never gotten used to seeing the body and I severely hate it when people say how “good they look.” I usually try not to stare. But this time, I couldn’t help it. I had only met his mother one time, so my memory might not be that vivid. She had also been sick, so that might have something to do with the way she looked. My friend’s mother…looked like a man. Not just manly features – like mustache, beard, suit and tie…the whole nine yards.
I look over to the family. My friend is nowhere to be seen. His father (a small old woman in a pretty periwinkle dress) was staring at me much the same way I was staring at the casket.
You know how sometimes you feel like it’s a Friday when it’s really only Wednesday? Have you ever done that on a day you were supposed to go to a funeral? I have.
This man was very old. His children were a solid 30-40 years older than me. This was a small, intimate family visitation. It was kind of obvious that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was that guy. The funeral crasher.
I didn’t know the right thing to say to my friend! What was I going to say to THESE PEOPLE?!! However, I was past the point of no return. I walked over to the widow, took her hand, kissed her on the cheek (yes, kissed her), told her that her husband was a great guy, and then pulled each of his children or children-in-law or whoevertheywere into a solid handshake/”bro hug” combo, and walked out the door.
“Saying, ‘I’m sorry’ is the same as saying, ‘I apologize.’ Except at a funeral” ~ Demetri Martin