Thursday, September 16, 2004
I was surprised how much the funeral industry is like the wedding industry. In both, the parties purchasing services are pushed upscale relentlessly, always with the veiled threat of releatives dissaproving of your original, probably less traditional choices. Not matter what you envisioned going in, rare is the party who doesn't eventually settle for Plan A, B or C.
My Father expressed two wishes regarding his service. One, he never wanted any flowers except some red roses. Mom pretty much pulled off that, although some people refused to accept her no flowers request and sent in their arrangements anyway. I know, they meant well. Doesn't everyone?
Also, Dad always wanted to avoid priests as he was incensed about the church's pedophillia scandles. My sister would hear none of that and so hired non-denominational pastor who leads a weekly Jimmy Buffet-inspired service on the beach. Honestly, he wasn't all bad. It was good to have somebody in charge who wasn't crying. Yes, I could have done without the many Jesus references as we are a family of very lapsed Catholics. But he kept things moving forward. Still, the funeral jumped the shark when Pastor boy cranked up his CD player and capped the service with the most cheeseball synth-o version of Amazing Grace I've ever heard. Think Colors of The Wind without the soul. If Dad wasn't dead, that would've killed him.
It struck me that funerals are performed for those left behind, not the person who's died. In much the same way, weddings are for the families of those getting married more than for the couple. My sister and Mother needed some religion and hymns, so they ordered it. The fact that it was never part of our lives didn't figure into the equation at all. The fact that the pastor had never met my Father and delivered a service that - while generally thoughtful - could have been said for anyone, didn't matter in the least.
The casket was open for the family viewing and Dad looked terrible - frankly like somebody else. Considering how he wasted away in the final two weeks, that shouldn't surprise. We did the math and realized Dad died exactly one year to the day when he first noticed blood in his urine. The final 10 days were miserable and I commend my Mother and sister for dealing with it. By the end, he wanted out badly and he probably had a heart attack while resting in bed.
My brother, sister and I delivered eulogies. I generally blubbered through mine, although I score a laugh or two. I wish I had held it together better. Dad deserved more laughs. My sister told a good story about Dad teaching her how to swim in the Atlantic and how she found out later that my father couldn't swim himself. After that (and karaoke Amazing Grace), we enjoyed tastefully catered deli tray lunch in the reception room while Dad was quickly buried. Tis the rainy season in Florida. The water table's so high that you can't leave an open hold for any period of time. They have to move fast, seal the casket in a vault, dig the hole, drop in the vault and bury it quickly or else the hole floods. By the time we finished the carrot cake, Dad was in the ground and sodded over.
Thanks to everyone who wrote. I'm still sort of numb to all this. but I'll get back to you soon.