Funerals

It’s not often I walk away from a funeral feeling good. That’s even if I go at all. I sometimes just can’t deal with the people, the fumbling of words and trying to remember who the guy in the blue shirt by the window is.

I think I got a heavy dose of funerals as a kid and it turned me off. I have a vivid memory of my grandparent’s funeral as a 9-year-old girl, and from that moment on, I just go through the motions when it comes to them. I don’t often cry at them, instead I have my tears on my own time. And I for darn sure don’t go look at the person lying in the casket. I get absolutely nothing out of it. Instead, if they have photos I focus on those, and remember for myself who the person was and what they meant to me.

I recently attended the funeral for my great aunt, Bonnie. Although I didn’t spend much time with her, she was one of the kindest, sweetest women on the planet. As a bit of a tomboy I admired her attention to personal detail. She always had a “big” hairdo and was always wearing makeup—even when she was riding the mower or working a farm field. I got a chuckle out of the memory the pastor relayed, saying how Bonnie regretted going to drive the tractor for the first time because she never got away from it. But she made it her home. I drive by their farmstead about every day and miss seeing her in her pickup.

I also got a chuckle at my mom’s expense on the way to the cemetery. I hate seeing people “done up” lying in the casket. I avoid the line like the plague. My parents and sister don’t see anything wrong with it, and chat about it afterwards. Mom said on the way to the cemetery that she only wanted a graveside service when it was her time. “Why?” I asked. “I  don’t want people looking at my lying there!” Ok, Mom, but you go look! We all laughed.

Before the funeral, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of family there. Then my cousin made the comment, “There’s sure not many left on Mom’s side.” And there’s not. Especially the ones I’d known. I also couldn’t help notice all the age in the congregation. With the exception of myself, my cousin’s children and a few others around my age, those in attendance were mostly of the older generation. It happens when the person being celebrated is 80 years old.

Mom and Dad’s neighbor passed away the week following my great aunt’s funeral and they had quite the obituary. I shared it on social media, calling it a biography and not an obituary. It definitely was the story of his life. From his days as a custom harvester, to meeting his sweetheart on horseback, to him going to nursing school all while continuing to farm – it was a perfect tribute to a colorful man.

In one of my college journalism classes we were tasked with the assignment of writing our own obituary. I pined over mine and made up a few things that were probably pretty far-fetched, but for a 19-year-old the accomplishments were probably something she had wanted. I need to dig that out and see if I have hit any of my marks yet.

The tone at Bonnie’s funeral really made me think about how I want to be remembered some day. I don’t have a plan per say, but I know I sure don’t want a stuffy church funeral and people crying over me. I want it to be a celebration. A remembrance. And the last thing I want people saying is, “Oh she looked so nice.” There won’t be any of that at my funeral! I may not even have a casket. But there will be photos. Lots of photos.

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