Saturday, December 19, 2015

Death at Christmas

Here I am writing a blog about death on my own birthday. Polar opposites on one hand, yet part of the same package. It’s also a week before Christmas, December 19 – thanks again for that, Mom and Dad. I always felt gypped having the two days so close, as their typical line would be, “This is for your birthday AND Christmas!” So boo-hoo; anyway, here’s a real hardship – a friend of mine is spending his first Christmas without his wife.

She died this past summer. Unexpected and aggressive cancer killed her at 56. I went to the funeral. When it comes to the list of things that remind us of our own mortality, attending a funeral must be Numero Uno. Having a clear view of the cemetery out your fourth floor hotel window may run a close second.

Not only was having the cemetery right next to the hotel convenient for out-of-town visitors, but the church itself, where the service was held, was just on the other side of the cemetery! Everything within walking distance, including the restaurant for lunch afterward. Good planning on my buddy's part. I didn’t realize how close things were to each other and the morning of the funeral I drove past the cemetery looking for the church. I noticed a sign that said, “Mausoleum Sale! $15,000.

The funeral was solemn (more so than my biker friend’s funeral that I attended a few months later). It was also quite boring, thanks to the Catholic priest in attendance. He had all his lines memorized, no doubt having done this countless times. This was, however, a blessing in disguise. When they get all emotional and start referring to the deceased as if they actually knew them, I get all teary-eyed.
The only personal comments made at the service were made, surprisingly, by my friend, the widower. He shared a couple pages of memories of his late wife, such as, “She loved to plant flowers, but she didn’t love to water them. That always ended up being my job.” Have to give him credit – I could never have uttered a word had I been in his shoes.

Later, back at his house, the doorbell kept ringing with flower deliveries. He was totally weary by that point but got up to answer the door. When he came back to the gathering of friends and relatives, someone asked, “More flowers?” He said, “No. Some guy trying to sell me windows. I said, look buddy – I just buried my wife today. It’s not a good time.”