Funerals make me feel awkward.
I have a chronic inability to deal with death, so I deflect. There are two ways I do this. Humour helps me deal with emotional upheaval because I find it goes a long way toward making the unbearable, bearable. My first step is to try and find a little levity. Note I say a little, because a funeral is obviously not the right time to be cheerful and gay and too much levity is disrespectful. There are other ways of processing trauma and my method may not be the most mature way of going through the stages of grief, so I can’t exactly recommend you kids do this at home. If it helps you with discomfort and pain, you’re welcome to try. Just remember to be appropriate about it. No one wants a crazy guest in the corner, pointing and laughing at a hearse.
The second way I deal is to have takeaways. I note specific details to incorporate in my own funeral, i.e. open vs. closed casket, appropriate Biblical passages, whom I would want doing the eulogy, what to feed the guests. I never had plans for a dream wedding but it would seem I have plans for a dream funeral.
I met my aunt when I was much much younger, and I knew the basics: she was a nurse, had two boys, lived in Montreal. It wasn’t until her funeral that I found out she hadn’t just been a nurse, she’d been the head nurse of a prestigious hospital and a damn good one. So good, after she retired they named a hospital award after her. She was socially active, a woman who touched many, and had been, by all accounts, a pearl of a human being. For her funeral this week, I didn’t need very much levity. I am fortunate to have extended family in these parts and we were all together for the first time in a while, which meant stories of the misadventures of my aunts, uncles and cousins were shared to everyone’s delight. It also meant we were creating new memories just by being together again, catching up after a bit of time had passed. You can always make new friends and keep the old, but there’s nothing quite like the shared history unique to people related by blood. It seemed like a great way to honour her memory in a land far away from the place where she was born.
They say we take nothing with us when we die. I think we spend so much time making it a priority to enjoy the things we can’t bring with us, we forget to focus on what we actually leave behind. And this was my takeaway: while we take nothing with us when we pass on, we leave everything behind for others to deal with. And although we are by nature more forgiving when it comes to remembering someone who’s already dead, it does matter that we leave behind as many good memories of ourselves as possible because no one wants to be remembered as a jerk. It doesn’t matter if we’re no longer around to enjoy our own eulogies. It matters that others don’t struggle to write a decent one for us.