Saturday, September 30, 2006

Some funeral observations

I'm not a fan of funerals and not just for the obvious reason that they represent the fact that someone died. They are, for me anyway, often tension-filled. First, being an atheist, I struggle against the call on religion to soothe our souls in our time of distress. Second, it means dealing with family and the undercurrent of all those relationships at a time when people's emotions are running high. Under such conditions, there's a high likelihood of emotional crisis.

There was no crisis this time, but definitely some interesting moments. My father told me that at the viewing the day before, a friend of his mother's, after expressing her condolences, said, "I don't know what your politics are, but I just want you to know I think George W. Bush is an idiot."

Besides the family, there were less than 10 other people at the funeral. Mostly, this is because my granparents' friends were few and most had died in the last few years. Even some that are still alive are not in a condition to attend a funeral. My other grandmother, who died younger and also after her husband, had fewer people at her funeral as well, but more than this grandmother.

My cousins did nothing to control their rambunctious two-year old, who was rambunctious enough to make it difficult for us to hear. Me? I would have taken the child outside.

Everyone who spoke mentioned my grandmother's applesauce. My dad's entire eulogy was about applesauce (something I hope to post because it was wonderful). It was really good applesauce.

At the graveside service, my father asked me, "Do you feel any connection to these people?"

And I said no, not really. And I thought about that and about why that was. Part of it was the fact that we did not visit often. While my cousins were often together at my grandparents over holidays, my family (mostly my mother) chose to stay at home with just our immediate family. We saw my grandparents a couple of times a year, but saw my cousins only every few years. When I did see my cousins, I remember feeling left out. They all knew each other and shared stories about their time together. I also remember a couple of them teasing me mercilessly about my southern accent, the way I dressed, etc. Not exactly a bonding moment. And I am the cousin whose parents got divorced and whose sister died. I am different.

One cousin, the second oldest, named after my father, I have always liked. When I was young, he always tried to make me feel included even while the other cousins were trying to exclude me. He also used to write songs and we share a kind of creative spirit, something we both still harbor even if our lives didn't lead us to careers in those fields. He is kind and non-judgemental. And even though I don't agree with him all the time, I still respect him.

My aunts are getting older. They seem older now than they ever have.

Children do not know that death is a sad or scary thing. They run around the graveyard and pick flowers and laugh and to them it's the same as if they were in a park.