My First Funeral
I was in junior high when Phyllis died, and i think i went to the wake (i went to somebody’s i know) but the funeral was during a school day and i decided not to go, something i sometimes regret. I was away at Smith when Olive died, and Paul Cotton had a memorial service last summer which i did go. This was the first official funeral i’ve gone to. Bob Murray
My mom was the second of three people to share thoughts about Bob at the funeral..
In a day and age where we all have a list a mile long to justify why we don’t do the many acts of kindness that we might, there was Bob with Louise, every day, until she died. And he was not only there, he was glad to be there. He thanked God that he kept his good health until after she died, so that, in his words, “he never missed a day.”
That was the part (around the middle of her notes) where i started to get teary.
Most of us include the lines in our wedding vows, “in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” But what do we know--
That was the part where it got difficult for her to go on.But what do we know, when we are young and strong?
She got that part out, with serious emotion. She couldn’t keep going though, so Pastor Bill read the rest while she cried into my arms.
It says something about our culture that I see Bob’s devotion as an inspiration. It says something about Bob Murray that he saw it as completely unremarkable. He loved Louise, therefore, he was with her when she needed him. The example of his love and his courage will live forever in my family’s heart.
I had held my grandmother’s hand while my mom was up front talking. As i held my mother it occurred to me that one reason you attend funerals, even when you didn’t know the deceased that well, is to be there to comfort the grieving. One reason my mother goes to the funerals of old people, even when she didn’t know them that well, is because there are so few people left--so many of these people outlived most of their friends, many either don’t have children or their children have drifted away (hell, some of these people outlived their kids), and many no longer attend church or are active in other communities because of the toll age takes on their health. I thought about how just as being there for your particular mourners is important, just being there in the audience is important to the major mourners. I mean, it shows them that other people remember and cared about the deceased. Imagine being the only person at a funeral, feeling the responsibility of carrying that person’s memory; that must be a terrible burden.
(During the service Pastor Bill talked about something which i assume is from Revelations about at the Second Coming the graves will be opened and God will raise up glorified bodies. I know that’s all over Jehovah’s Witness stuff, but i hadn’t thought it was actually explicit like that in the Bible. I’ve always thought of Heaven as a spiritual thing, but bodies mean Heaven!sex *wicked grin* I’ve obviously gotta get more well-read in this stuff. I hadn’t thought we actually believed in that risen body stuff, since we talk about people being in Heaven now, and it seems real weird to let people chill in Heaven being all incorporeal and then later give them glorified bodies. JW’s think people are essentially sleeping until the Second Coming, which is at least consistent, and doesn’t Jesus talk about the separation of the sheep and the goats? I have issues with any conception of Hell, of course, and okay i’m stopping now.)
When we left the church, the rain still misty, there was a bagpiper standing near the hearse, playing. I felt like i was in the Scottish highlands. (My immediate next thought was the end of “Passion” when Giles is kneeling next to Jenny Calendar’s tomb, and, yes simultaneously, that end scene of a Xena
episode where there’s a grave and wailing singing that i think is Lucy Lawless -- those scenes totally mesh into one in my brain, wish i knew which Xena
ep it is.)
The cemetery was in North Easton. Felt like it took forever to get there, because we took what was the most direct but not necessarily the shortest route there. I’d never really seen a funeral procession before. Everyone has their flashers on, and you ride nearly bumper-to-bumper. And they gave us printed directions in case we got separated.
They had these mat things surrounding the grave, which i thought was a thoughtful touch, especially considering the weather. It looked like the tomb had concrete walls, which i was really confused about. Mommy thought Marilyn May (a woman at church who used to have a funeral home) might know about that. The bagpiper was there, too, playing while everyone made their way to the tent over the grave.
Bob was in the Coast Guard in WWII, so there were Coast Guard people there who folded a flag and did salutes and presented the flag to a woman whom i’m guessing is his daughter. They even have this nice speech: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and the Coast Guard.” I cried, and when they played Taps my mom started to break down again. Then we left. It felt weird that they didn’t lower the casket into the tomb. I thought funerals were supposed to be about closure and stuff, and there’s this real weird lack of closure seeing the casket still sitting atop the empty tomb. I told my mom i thought they lowered the casket into the tomb and kin got to throw dirt and stuff in if they wanted. She said that’s Jewish funerals. I want that when i die.
Who knew Taps has lyrics?
Day is done,
gone the sun,
from the lakes,
from the hills,
from the skies.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
Thanks and praise,
for our days,
n'eath the sun,
n'eath the stars,
n'eath the sky.
As we go, this we know,
God is nigh.