Monday, December 04, 2006

Funeral Shopping

I went to a funeral today. Seems to be in vogue for my age. A good friend’s father died. She made the trip to my mother’s service.

Because she loves me.

And I made the trip to her father’s service.

Because I love her.

More than that, we have had a bond about our parents since first we met. Her father, my mother, were both incredibly narcissistic personalities. How they each played out their self-absorption was very different in their lifetimes. He was an incredibly gregarious man. My mother was very gracious. He said look at me! Aren’t I wonderful? She said, don’t look at me but yes, I did that. Shh.

For my friend and I, we bonded over the ever-present threat of death. Illness after illness. Ten years we talked about, well, maybe this time… Ten years. I spoke to her the day her father died. She said, He’s doing much better this morning. I’m not sure what to do.

I believed he would pull through, yet one more time with the same certainty I had around my mother- until I saw her. It made me pause with my advice. Trust your instincts, I said. If you think you should stay, do it. If not, then go. You’ve been there over and over again.

She stayed.

He died twelve hours later.

The funeral today was… fun. Okay, funerals aren’t suppose to be fun but when they are held at the Ethical and Cultural Center- Deed before Creed- there is a little built in leeway to be less than black veiled, wailing mourners.

No, you are not gong to see me in a black veil. Sparkling dresses, police uniforms, drag wigs- yes. Black veil? I don’t think so.

It was, as he was, the opposite of my mother’s funeral. People told stories. Lots of people. The family is large and everyone had the opportunity to speak. Colleagues spoke. People admired this man. It showed. People poked fun at his idiosyncrasies. I only met him once but knew a great turn of words when I heard them. One very strange, bible-quoting grandchild came forth but he was allowed his voice.

The predominately Jewish crowd wiggled a bit in their seats but gave polite applause when he was done. The Bible as a reference? The man being honored was a Jew who put up a Christmas tree every year because he thought it smelled nice. It wasn’t about Jesus- it was about the house smelling nice. The man had 8 children. Mostly boys. I get it.

He watched the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust and wasn’t too sure about God anymore.

I get that, too.

I drove away, watching an enormous moon crest the horizon. Larger than life, it reminded me of seeing the moon as a child after Neil Armstrong’s walk. So big, it could, finally, be touched. I felt sad.

My friend spoke, eloquently, about her father. She gave voice to her experience. Afterwards, I hugged her and she said it is so sad you didn’t get to speak at your mother’s funeral. It would have been amazing to hear you.

My mother’s service was beautiful. Crafted. Her children silent. Gorgeous music. No personality.

Her dad’s service oozed of him in every moment. Full room, one day, raised glass, to a good life lived well.

My mother had two services. One was not enough. Both muted. Quiet. When I look at the picture of her crouched in front of her new car at 22 years old? I don’t think she wanted quiet.

If there is an afterlife, I’m sure they will take separate corners. He would find her dull. She would find him arrogant.

But I’m sure they are in the same room. One where the mirrors have been removed so the next time around they will be able to see beyond themselves.

The moon, large, made me think of my mother. Here I am, she would say. The most beautiful piece of the sky, slowly retreating to a mere pinpoint. Just like in life, she slowly retreated but was always beautiful.

Were you really that afraid of what I’d say? I asked her, looking at the moon.

I would have made you real. Like at your 70th birthday party. People wept at what I said. Laughed. You were real. Do you really think I would have hurt you? I would never hurt you, Mom.

The moon rose, growing smaller.

Today, I thought, if I am funeral shopping? I want the kind of funeral I went to today. Full of fun stories. Gentle poking at my flaws. No God.

Lots of love.

Which, I believe, brings us full circle.

She went to my mother’s service.

I went to her father’s service.

Because we love each other.


Post a Comment

<< Home