My sister called me crying over a certain detail regarding handling her father-in-law’s death. When I heard what the matter was—trying to fit all his ashes into an empty Bacardi box—I started to laugh. I told her that death and funerals foster the best of stories, that she would be amused by this later, and everything would be okay. Fortunately, she ultimately was able to see the humor in trying to squeeze a man into a box the size of a liquor bottle.
A good friend of mine once told me about his father’s passing. My friend and his brother were young folk—maybe nine and eleven. They sat on the bed watching their mother wring her hands and pace about the room in search of “socks that stand up”. She needed to gather the clothes that the funeral home had requested in order to dress the body for the wake. All of a sudden, one of the boys piped up, “But Mom, where Dad is, he doesn’t need socks that stand up.” The mother broke into a fit of laughter and tension ebbed from the room.
At my mother-in-law’s funeral years ago, a wheelchair-bound great aunt had to be carried out of the wake because she would not stop her hysterical crying and yelling. Watching the great aunt flail and sob suddenly struck me as one of those movie-moments where things are so bad, they’re funny. My then-husband had seen a chiropractor for an emergency appointment only an hour or two before the wake because he had pinched a nerve and could not move his neck or bend over--and here we were watching this normally confined woman practically claw her way across the carpet. Something about her uncontrolled expression lifted our mood and we took a deep breath. I waited for the next eyebrow-raising event to happen, but even the fact that someone had worn a prom dress to the funeral seemed to pale next to the memory of the theater-style yelling and carrying on.
Last week, my sister told me that she found out someone had tried to order barbeque for 80 people (in her name, no less) and have it sent to the funeral home. Last I heard, funerals weren’t the place for a barbeque buffet. I can’t see people sucking ribs next to the casket, can you? As we cackled about other absurdities she was experiencing in her planning of the memorial service, I told her another story:
Once, there was a man who was so devoted to his wealth that he had asked his wife to bury him with his money. When he died, she wrote a check and slipped it into his pocket as his body lay in the casket at the wake. Problem solved. I wonder if the wife laughed about it later. I sure hope so.