Friday, June 01, 2007

Rest In Peace. Not if You're Alive

I had to attend my grandfather’s funeral Thursday. He died the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. Because he died on a three day weekend we had to wait five days before we could have the wake and 6 days before we could have a funeral. The living aren’t going to stop their three day weekend for death. That’s why this past Memorial Day weekend I honored my grandfather’s memory with a constant flow of wine from my glass to my mouth. It’s the way he would have wanted it.

After spending the entire weekend living the life my grandfather would have if he hadn’t passed I was exhausted. It was time to sober up and say good-bye, not to mention get some sleep. I figured the funeral would be a time to relax and not go to work. This was why I was looking forward to mourning the loss Wednesday and Thursday Oh how wrong I was. Sure, I got the day off of work Thursday, but I still had to work Wednesday. Which meant rushing to catch a 5:30pm bus to NJ to make the 7-9pm viewing. Wakes are not a time of quiet reflection they are a time where you the mourner feel obligated to make your friends and family not feel awkward as they offer their sympathies. They come over to you, grimace, go in for a half hearted hug, and say in a whispered tentative voice, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” They lace every gesture with insecurity and discomfort you can’t help feeling sorry for them, so you try make them feel better. You tell them a joke or say, “Thank you, thanks for coming. How are you doing? It’s been awhile.” Once they begin talking about themselves they start to feel a little at ease. It’s kind of like being at a company party-you have to be “on.” You’re hosting a non-celebratory party of death. All of this is fine it’s just not relaxing.

By the time I got home it was 9:30pm and I still had to do my laundry. I figured if I’m going to my parents house anyway I might as well do my laundry. Then I had to relay the story of how I accidentally emasculated a man this past weekend. Which I probably wouldn’t have done but I was trying to honor my grandfather’s memory. Not that he was big into emasculation but he was big into saying things that upset people. I went to bed around 1am. Only to have to rise at 7:45am in order to get to a 9am funeral.

Now here’s my question: why do we have to have a funeral first thing in the morning? The deceased isn’t going to get any deader if we wait half a day. Can’t we have a leisure funeral around 12noon or 1pm? And in my grandfather’s case we already waited 6 days to bury him would four more hours really be so bad? How is our physical suffering going to relieve our emotional pain? I was exhausted. It didn’t help matters that my family and I had to sit in the front two pews of the church. First off, if you’re in the front row you can’t fall asleep everyone will see you and judge you. Do I really need to be judged in my time of loss? Secondly, my family doesn’t know anything about religion. We sat in the front pews being the last people in the church to stand, sit, or kneel when the ceremony called for those praying positions. We’d kind of hear people in back of us stand-up so we’d turn around see everyone standing and then stand-up ourselves. Half way through the ceremony a woman, who was a member of the church (I don’t know what her title was, but she wasn’t a nun.), took pity on us and began subtly giving us hand signals for when we should rise and when we should sit. I think we might have gotten excommunicated that day.

Anyway after the funeral we had to go to the burial then to lunch which took nearly 3 hours and then I had rush back to Brooklyn. My point? I didn’t get any extra sleep yesterday, and I was hoping to.

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