Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thoughts at a funeral

Some thoughts at a funeral today:

Wise King Solomon wrote:
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4)

But we seemed to have managed to combine the house of mourning with the houses of feasting and mirth, all in the same occasion.  I guess doing all three at the same time should be pretty good too. 

Maybe having 1000 wives and concubines, as Solomon did, would make any man wish for the day of his death.

The wise man of baseball, Yogi Berra, said: "Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't go to yours"  I don't think I'll care if anyone goes to mine, though.

Another baseball manager, Chuck Tanner, who coincidentally died Friday said:  "You can have money piled to the ceiling but the size of your funeral is still going to depend on the weather.”  Not actually sure that's true.  He lived in New Castle, Pennsylvania, so I expect the weather will not be good for his funeral.  Lots of people will probably go anyway.

After the congregation stumbled and mumbled torturously through the four long verses of a very long  hymn sung in a variety of keys to an organ accompaniment too soft to be heard despite the hesitant singing, except at the beginning of each verse where we could hear just enough of the organ to prove that we were off key, and it was impossible to find the bass part anywhere, the first two words of the opening prayer expressed my sentiments exactly:  "Merciful God!"

I never cease to be amazed at how much I learn about a person, who I have known all my life, at their funeral: all the things I never knew about them until they died.  Seems a shame.  All those things I'd have talked to them about if I knew it before.  Wouldn't it be better if you all posted your funeral notes someplace like your Facebook Wall well ahead of time, so I wouldn't have to wait for your funeral to learn all that interesting stuff about you?

For instance:  I had no idea she collected tea cups, like my wife.  The family brought her collection to the dinner after the funeral and used them as table decorations (with chocolate kissses in them).

If you like to collect something, make sure at least one of your children appreciates them.

I always feel a little guilty going to someone's funeral when I haven't spoken to them for several years before that.  Seems like they might have preferred me taking the time to visit before they died instead of waiting 'til afterwards.  On the other hand, it is a lot less awkward - I don't have to figure out what to say to them.

The deceased's two son's in law eulogized her.  My mother in law asked if I was making notes for her funeral.  Cleo, there is just no way I will be able to get any words out at your funeral.  I will be too choked up.  I would say wonderful things about you if I could talk, but I'm sure I won't be able to.  I'll just have to tell you now instead that I love you too much to be able to say so at your funeral.

Walking around the cemetary, I saw some husband-and-wife combined headstones where one spouse was buried but the other still has a blank for the date of their yet future death.  Seems a bit morbid seeing the headstone just waiting to have the date of your death filled in.  I suppose though that it is reality:  Whether we have commissioned it yet or not, somewhere there is a piece of stone just waiting to have each of our dates of death engraved on it.  Puts things in perspective.  But still, I'd rather they waited 'til I was dead to have my headstone made up.

Actually, I'm thinking about donating my body to UCLA medical school.  I've already donated 14 gallons of my blood to them, so they might as well get the rest of me to go with it.  We did buy funeral plots once, about 35 years ago, when a salesman persuaded us it was just good planning.  But we cancelled the deal the next day when we came to our senses.  Don't think I want to buy any more funeral plots.  If I'm going to buy land, I want to be able to reside on it while I'm alive.

The last line on this headstone was pretty helpful - yep, those Seagoes.

There were a lot of other Seagoes lined up there too.  Without this one to identify them, I wouldn't have been sure it was the same family I know.  I guess the engravers charge by the letter.  Too bad.  It would be nice if more gravestones had more information on them about the person underneath, instead of just the dates of birth and death.  Come on, expand a bit on that hyphen in between.

Funny why the grave diggers nowdays wait for everyone to leave before they lower the coffin and fill in the grave.  I like it better when you can watch.  The idea of going off and leaving the coffin still sitting out there seems sort of, unfinished business.

Still haven't figured out what to do with the programs from funerals.  I find it hard to throw out the last memento of a person.  Some people collect them. Not sure I want to do that either.  Pretty sure my children won't appreciate the collection when I'm dead.  Pretty sure I won't care by then.


  1. I was walking around a cemetery (for a reason, actually, not just to be creepy)and saw a headstone for the mother and father in-law of one of my relatives. I know that her mother and father-in-law are both very much alive. So, I took a picture of the headstone and was a little creeped out that they already have their space staked out for them.

    And I guess that I like your idea, and if I know that I am going to die soon, I will start blogging & facebooking about all the things people should know about me before I die....

    I keep some funeral programs. From ones that were super important to me.... And please don't make me talk at a funeral, I would never ever be able to do it.

  2. About that stuff you collect and save for your children... I love Christmas Decorations... recently a daughter-in-law said "Mom, What are you going to do with all this stuff!" I sent a large box of decorations home with her for her tree anyway... Both our children have advised they aren't interested in any of our "collections"... so check it out early and find someone to give your possesions too who will appreciate them before you get to old! Or have one grand garage sale and take a cruise! (by the way we've signed up to cruise to Alaska this summer!)