In the last 2 weeks we’ve buried both my mother and my uncle. That’s not literally true, actually, as they both wished to be cremated and we’ll inter/deal with their ashes at a later date, but they both certainly had memorial services. I think we’re all glad that they’re done and over with; I never realized just how much time and effort they required.
What I really wanted to comment on in this post, however, was some of the general things I’ve noticed.
The first is that the newly deceased is seen in the best possible light. Don’t get me wrong, this is completely appropriate and necessary; we all want to remember the wonderful things after all. But I do find it interesting that faults are glossed over. I don’t think this is intentional. I think it’s natural to remember the good things about a loved one and to disregard the bad, at least for a while. But I still do find it interesting.
With my mom, her good traits were rightly emphasized: her wonderful smile, ready laugh, ‘motherly’ aspect, social graces, patience with family and friends, all the things that made her a wonderful friend, mother, and spouse. But I also can’t help but notice that some of her annoying traits were left out. I hated that she wouldn’t let me drink my morning cup of coffee and read the paper in peace, but had to start chatting right away. In the same vein, it could be very hard to get work done in the house – she liked to chat, even if you were trying to read or do homework, or whatever. She was a great listener, but she sure liked to talk when she wasn’t listening!
She was very patient with family and friends, but had little patience with those who she didn’t like. Sometimes her opinions of people seemed so hastily formed, at least to me. She could be surprisingly virulent when she talked about those she didn’t like, whether people ‘on the street’, politicians, whomever. Sometimes I was little put off by it.
My point here is not to criticize my mom. She was a wonderful lady, and like all of us had her faults. Some of them irritated me, but I treasure those things which helped me get through life and hopefully made me a better person. (So all family members: lay off! I’m just making a point!)
The other thing that’s always amazed me about funerals is how much fun they are. The funerals themselves are, of course, very sad, but at the same time it’s so wonderful to hear about the person, to hear about what made them special and loved, and to see the people who valued them in whatever way. I find that I smile all the way through them. Even if the person who’s trying to talk is overcome with emotion, I keep smiling; after all, his/her strong emotion is testament to the bond that existed between these two people, and that is a wonderful thing.
And the receptions afterwards — I’ve never been to one I didn’t enjoy. You invariably see people who you haven’t seen in years and catching up is great. And the people you meet there love your loved one like you did, so how can you not enjoy meeting them and sharing memories and finding that you have all kinds of common interests. It’s like speed dating but with a pre-selected population of people who you already know you’ll like!
Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. Of course none of us look forward to funerals, but if they have to happen, I for one am glad that they can be the source of so much joy.