Saturday, May 30, 2009
At Dale's funeral in the Presbyterian church, I sat behind a wide-shouldered, perfectly coiffed man who wore an expensive suit and a snow-white shirt. He was evenly tanned and sang the hymns on key in an elegant baritone. He did not weep during the service, as many did, and when he turned momentarily, I saw he had the type of movie star good looks women favor. I tried to figure out the relationship he had with my late friend, couldn't. In fact, it didn't matter, but that's where my mind goes during such services.
I have always believed that our essences, our souls, if you will, probably stick around a few days after death just to make sure things are done right.
When my dad died and was cremated, I decided to take his ashes back to France so they could be scattered with my mother's at Paris' Cimetière Père Lachaise (yes, that's where The Doors' Jim Morrison is most unfortunately buried.) I thought a fitting place for his remains to rest until the trip to Europe might be the Buddhist temple I occasionally attend, which--Buddha has a sense of humor too--is next to a gun club's firing range near a Civil War battlefield. I drove his ashes there, spoke with the monk who took them from me with a smile and placed them near the altar. That night at home, I heard my father's voice, loud and clear, "Mais t'es fou! Are you crazy? What are they going to feed me here, rice and vegetables? All they have is water and I hate rice! You know that! What in the world were you thinking of?"
Understand now, my father was a bon vivant; he liked a glass of wine or two with his food, enjoyed his bread, butter and Camembert cheese, took his scotch and soda when the sun set. It had never occurred to me that he might prefer not to be in a place where food and drink were far more frugal than he was used to.
So that night over dinner in my kitchen, we discussed it, me and my late father, and agreed that he would spend no more than three days there. Seventy-two hours later, I drove his ashes back to my house. Until we left for Europe, they stayed in the closet where I keep my manuscripts. At least dad had something to read.
My friend Lisa says that, "The thing about a funeral is, it's not just the one loss. It's every loss, every grief you have ever experienced. You to have sit there and listen to 'On Eagles Wings' in uncomfortable clothes and consider your own mortality as well. I also am always overwhelmed with a feeling of futility. Here is a long, productive, adventurous life. Now it's done. Really? That's it?"
Maybe that's it, maybe not. I think both Dale and my friend Beth, whose funeral is a few hours from now, are still hovering about tending to the last details of their lives, and that's a wise idea. We, the living, have a tendency to muck things up when we are sad and mourning, so it's probably good to have some help from the ones we're honoring.
And now I promise not to write about funerals for awhile. There are more cheerful subjects at hand. And E, my good and kind friend in West Virginia who thought I was suicidally depressed and called the local police to look in one me--I'm OK. Promise. But thanks for caring.