7.26.2010

A Funeral, A Procession, A Potluck and...Honky-Tonkin'

Late Friday afternoon my immediate family of three made our way to join my extended family to celebrate the life of my uncle.
I much rather like the terms celebrate and memorial than funeral. The word funeral is so, well...funereal, conjuring up images of dark, somber clothes, hearses, lilies and creaky organ music.
My dad grew up in a family of eight children, seven boys and one girl, he being the second to the youngest. My dad's father died of a heart attack when my dad was four years old, so my grandmother, affectionately known as DoDo (sweet, huh?) was left to raise four young boys, one of whom had polio (this was before the vaccine, late 40s), alone. My uncle R.D. had joined the Army Air Corps at 17, near the end of WWII, but wasn't in the service too long before he was called home to help support his family at home.
My dad, and his remaining brothers (Bob and Ronnie), along with the husbands of R.D.'s grand-daughters, supported R.D. one last time Friday when they served as pallbearers. Even though I am aware of the passing of time and the passing of my uncles and aunt over the last several years, it was still rather stark to see only three surviving brothers.
The morning before the service Annelise and I talked about what the funeral would be like, what she should expect and I tried to answer any questions she had. As it so happened, she didn't have a lot of questions, she just wanted reassurance that she wouldn't see any bones. I assured her that Uncle R.D. would look like he was asleep, that she did not have to look unless she wanted to and there would be no bones.
Perhaps she has watched too much Scooby Doo and was thinking of the skeletons that frighten Scooby and Shaggy all the time.
I'm not sure if it's kosher (especially when one is not Jewish) to say a funeral service was enjoyable, but it was. I always enjoy hearing personal stories, anecdotes, listening to the music and the slide shows always choke me up. Annelise handled everything, even the viewing, perfectly fine. She wasn't scared, only curious and did not seem adversely affected at all.
I also like, well again, I'm not sure if like is the best word without sounding Morticia-ishly morbid, the funeral procession because the formal pageantry of it is full of honor and respect. I also enjoy watching the policemen navigate their motorcycles to block off traffic, keep the procession together and I appreciate it when others pull over to the side of the road and wait out of respect. People seem to heed this tradition more in smaller towns than in the city and that makes me sad. We even had a few cars break into the procession when we were on the freeway! Ugh!
On the way to the cemetery I told Annelise the story of when Uncle R.D., after being mercilessly nagged and wheedled by my dad when he was a tot of five or six, to be taken "honky-tonkin" (because that's what he heard his much older brothers talking about), so R.D. took my dad to a joint of some sort, bought him a strawberry soda and played Pistol Packing Mama on the jukebox. Thanks to R.D, my dad had his first honky-tonkin' experience and was beside himself with six year old glee.
Of course Annelise had to ask my dad to take her honky-tonkin' as soon as the graveside service was over.
The family (even the extendeds) was invited back to the church building for a potluck supper. Since we haven't had a family reunion in several years (which is sad, but seems to be the way of the second and third generations) it was nice (again, not sure if using nice to describe a funeral potluck is the best word choice) to spend some time together.
Thank you all for your comments and emails about whether or not to take Annelise to the service, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I know that every child and every situation is different, but for us we decided to go ahead and introduce Annelise to what a funeral involves. She didn't seem upset or disturbed by any part of it, so that is of course a relief.

2 comments:

  1. How wonderful that the funeral and all its activities ended up being so good! I think it's kosher, fine, great and super to enjoy a funeral service, a potluck and so on. I would definitely want my funeral to be a happy gathering of people who loved me, so that seems to be a compliment to the dearly departed when everyone is happy to see each other and remember them.

    I'm so glad you took Annelise and that she did so well.

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  2. I am sorry to hear about your uncle! I have neglected my fav blog jogs and was not aware. I think you were very wise to take A. Children with a firm belief have no reason and fears when they are introduced to death by loving parents. Your uncle sounds like a neat person and I think he looks an awful lot like your dad. Love you!

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