Sunday, January 6, 2013

130. Funerals

We had quite an experience last week, C.W. and I. I took him to his first funeral. It was a professional acquaintance with whom I had done business in the past. C.W. promised to behave, which I should recognize as a warning signal by now. Anyway …

He showed up as a non-descript senior citizen, complete with sansabelt pants and comfortable shoes. How much damage could someone like that cause? I soon found out.

It started as soon as we arrived. Though I tried to avoid it, we were trapped in the line in which one viewed the body before being seated. As we neared the casket, C.W. tugged at my sleeve and said, loudly enough for anyone near us to hear, “What on earth is that?”

I whispered, “That is the deceased.”

“Why did they coat her with wax?”

I froze, pretending I didn’t know him. I tried to hurry past, but he was having none of it. Stopping dead still (no pun intended) in front of the casket, he pronounced judgment. “That looks awful,” he said, then turned to me. “You wouldn’t let them do that to my body, would you?”

Ignoring him, I hurried to the back section of pews and sat. Had I been able to see the future, I would have kept going straight out of the church. But, no …

Pardon me if I don’t attempt to describe his attempts at joining in with the singing of hymns. His musical abilities tend to ebb and flow. This time they were at low tide. More than one face turned to stare at us before the song leader finished and the minister stepped forward.

“That’s a man,” C.W. whispered, indulging in one of his better known habits—that of stating the obvious.

“Yes,” I said. “Quite so.”

“Shouldn’t they have a female minister if the deceased was a female?”

“This church doesn’t believe in having female ministers,” I whispered and leaned forward slightly to catch the speaker’s first words.

“You’re shitting me!” C.W. blurted out loudly enough to be heard for a good distance.

What could I do? I grabbed a Bible from a rack on the back of the pew in front of us and desperately tried to follow the directions of the minister in finding the appropriated text.

“You don’t have to find it,” C.W. said, nudging me in the side. “He’s going to read it to you anyway.”

Surely enough, the minister began to read, in sonorous tones, an account of King David dealing with his grief over the death of a young son.

“Is that the kid that came along after he screwed around with his best friend’s wife?” C.W. wondered aloud.

I turned away and studied the stained glass windows as if I were in a French cathedral. I could only imagine the stares.

By some miracle, we finally found ourselves nearing the end of the service, the part where folks would stand and share memories of the deceased. All went well at first. Some recounted her kindness, some her generosity, and others her love of friends and family.

Then, to my utter horror, C.W. stood.

“Bless her heart,” he said. “I always heard she did the best she could with what she had.”

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