Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I lost a cousin recently. He was older than I and we had never had much time to get to know each other. Still, I always thought I would get that chance to know him better. I guess I was wrong. My uncle asked me to be a pall bearer, and I was honored to accept. I had to take a day off from work but did not begrudge that.

Apart from the standard reminder of your own mortality that funerals give you, there were some other realizations I experienced during the funeral service. Here are a few, in no particular order.

  • I and a select few of my relations seem to have gotten all the looks (I didn't say they were going to be deep realizations! I am fairly shallow after all, but I am smart enough to not specify which ones got what, I'll let you guess).
  • I and a surprising few probably got all the brains (Did I mention I have difficulty being humble?).
  • I should probably feel more at home at the local Wal-Mart.
  • It is easier to make it through a funeral without tears when you have not seen the person for a decade or so.
  • Despite the formal occasion and somber mood I had the STRONG urge to stand up and question the minister about the type of airplane out of which my cousin REALLY jumped (No, that was not the cause of death, so don't ask).
  • I am a little picky about historic "facts" being bandied about carelessly. When the minister mentioned that my grandparents came out west over the Oregon Trail, I had to fight the urge to look up and confirm on my phone my distinct suspicion that the railroads put the Oregon Trail out of business long before the turn of the previous century (Sure enough, by 1883 it was not being used, and my grandparents were not born until after 1910).
  • 43 is too young to die, for that matter, anything under 117 is probably just a little too young.
  • I prefer the "new" sharing stories about the dead to the "old" sinners repent or you'll end up where this guy is approach to funeral services.
  • Even though you can count on someone to stand up with an anecdote that appears to have no tie-in to the dead person at all except in the teller's head.
  • Most people have formal funeral attending clothing that is 15-30 years out of date.
  • I regret not listening to my mother tell me who "those old boring people" were (I was totally wondering the whole time who the hell everyone was).
  • We should probably have more family reunions, since the only time we see family is when someone dies (don't want the sight of family members to become a reminder that we will all eventually die, and might make Thanksgiving depressing).
  • Some of my family try to put the "fun" back in funeral, no matter what.
Being a pall bearer again lead me to some other realizations:
  • As a pall bearer, I have come to realize that all Coffins must be made to protect the occupant from radiation, because they feel like they are made of lead.
  • Being short does NOT make you a good pall bearer.
  • Being short does not keep people from asking you to be a pall bearer.
  • If you have been a pall bearer with another person more than once, that other pall bearer will remember the time you (the shortest and youngest pall bearer) stepped in a hole some 20 years ago carrying a casket.
  • That other pall bearer will also gladly relate that former incident willingly to the other pall bearers, who might not know of your previous pall bearing experiences.
  • Other pall bearers don't feel comfortable with the possibility of receiving 1/5th the weight of the casket, but 1/6th the weight is acceptable.
  • Pall bearers are pretty good with fractions.
  • I'd rather be a pall bearer if I could hold the coffin with my right hand.
  • The occupant of the casket probably won't complain if they are dropped.
  • His widow might.
  • Hearses probably don't need windows in the back...
  • Pall Bearers do NOT get to keep the boutonnière.
  • At least one of the pall bearers seemed disappointed that pall bearers do not keep the boutonnière.
  • I was not disappointed that I was not going to be able to keep the boutonnière, even though I think it really set my ensemble off!.


Cora said...

I love putting the Fun back in Funeral! too bad I had to work.

Grandma L said...

I laughed all the way through your funeral story, so I think you definitely put the fun back in funeral. I bet all those old dumpy dressed codgers were thinking, "I wonder who the the hell that short goodlooking guy with all the brains is". heehehaw heetee teheeha haaha.

Anonymous said...

I'm very surprised that your insights concerning your cousins funeral did not lead to an account of your own concerning your jump from a WWII B-17 (of which as your Dad, I'm very proud of!). Unfortunately, upon your eventual return to Earth, you did sprain your ankle. After all not too many people are privileged these days to leap out of vintage bomber, so you really do have bragging rights!
What's surprising is that you didn't have to travel to another state to perform this brave and exhilarating feat. You got the chance to jump and land on the ground at the Ellensburg airport. Did I mention that the bomber was on the ground when you leapt out of it!