Thursday, October 24, 2013

Putting the 'Fun' in Funeral: A Mortifying True Story

Death and funerals are a huge deal in the South, and they should be. It’s the last time to rally around your loved one and bid them adieu until you meet them again. My children, however, do not do well in funeral homes. It’s not that they get scared or upset about there being a body in a casket, or people crying all around. My children are sensitive to those around them, but rather than mourn with them, my children are the ones dancing the meringue around the morgue. 

This past year, my great-uncle passed away, and the kids and I spent the day at the funeral home with our family and friends. Yes, I should’ve known better. While I haven’t witnessed it, I’ve heard stories of my daddy’s funeral home shenanigans, and I should’ve known that my kids got at least part of the gene.

The first few hours went well. Emma was talking to all of the ladies about their jewelry and showing off her painted fingernails. Braxton was up to his eyeballs in what turned out to be a very ill-timed photography and videography phase, and he kept his pocket camcorder with him at all times. And,  well, Reagan was just Reagan, bless his heart. If you’ve met Reagan, you know he’s the one that made my hair turn gray. Love that little booger to death, but he has made me very old very quickly.

Anyway…the kids are pretty good with the whole funeral home scenario. I mean, a room full of food, a Coke fountain, and plenty of places to sit where Momma can’t see you. They’d been sitting in the parlor just outside of the viewing room when Reagan comes over and gives me a hug. (Aw, he’s so sweet!) He turns around and looks in the casket, and gets this pure, T-total devil look on his face. “Hey, Mom, if I take his picture, will I see his ghost?”

“Rae-Rae, I swear to God, I’ll knock your legs out from under you if you even think about getting that camera out.” He pretends to be all innocent (FAT CHANCE!), and says “Would it upset (my aunt)?” I told him that it would definitely upset her, and that he should get rid of that idea yesterday.

So he meanders off, but I know better than to rest easy. He’s gonna make me kill him by the end of the day, there’s not a doubt in my mind. A bit later, I walk out through the parlor and I see him peeking into the room with the casket…but not the one our family is using…and he’s still holding that dad gum camera!

Rae-Rae! What in God’s name are you doing? That’s not our room! “But, Mom, somebody in there was taking pictures! Can me and Bubby go around and take pictures of the other people here? We’ll hide behind the flowers and stuff so they won’t see it." Oh, well if that’s the case, go right ahead, Reagan! I mean, taking pictures in a funeral home might upset people, but if you jump out of the flowers like a stripper out of a birthday cake, that will make EVERYTHING better!

So, I drag him back to our room. I’ve got him by the scruff of the neck with my right hand, and about to rip his ear off with the left. “Boy, sit your butt down before I get them to put you to work.” Well, that sure as heck backfired.

“Really, mom? Like, with bodies and stuff? Do I get to see gross stuff? Do I have to clean up?....”

“Reagan, dude, it’s a joke. But seriously…sit down, and don’t talk again till you get your learner’s license.”

The next few hours pass without incidence. They go outside and walk around some, hang out in the kitchen, and I later found out, dance on the sidewalk in front of the hearses.

We’re getting ready to go get some dinner later when I check on the boys again. They’re on my heels since they’re hungry, so I tell them to go use the bathroom and wash up, and then we’ll go eat.

A couple of minutes pass….Bubby and Rae-Rae are nowhere to be seen. I make a loop around the funeral home to make sure Reagan’s not jumping out of the peace lilies like a spider monkey. No paparazzi, no flash photography:  I can relax. Then I realize that I still don’t know where my boys have gone. Some moms might be worried about their boys, wondering if they’d snuck out or been kidnapped. I’m not one of those. I’m scared to death for the other people in the funeral home. I’m prepared to handle my kids, but that’s because I’ve been baptized by fire. Thank God, I’m not nearly as flammable as I used to be.

In this funeral home, the bathrooms are beside the chapel, around the corner from the kitchen, and there’s a pew out in the hall where guests can sit. I walk back around to the bathrooms, and I see Braxton sitting there lookin’ like the cat that ate the canary. “Braxton, what did you—or your brother—do?”  He’s about to bite a hole through his lip when it all becomes crystal clear to me.

“Braxton, go in there and tell him I am coming in after him if he’s not out here in one minute.”  Braxton is now donning the old ‘Dad, Snickers, stat!’ look when he opens the door. I hear Reagan making some kind of noise in there, but I can’t quite make it out.

The door then opens the rest of the way, and this older, white haired gentleman walks out, and he’s got his hand up over his face. Bless his heart, ya’ll, I just knew he’d lost the love of his life and was wondering he was going to face an empty home. His face was all red, and his shoulders were shaking up and down. I tried to turn away out of respect for his privacy, since after all, I was about to charge in the men’s room swattin’ and swingin’.  This poor ‘ol man slowly lifts his face from his hands, and ….he’s…….smiling?! Oh, God, this is worse than I thought. He rubs his hand over his face, and says “Ma’am, is that one in there yours?” 

Into my hands goes my face. “Yes'sir, I’m afraid that one’s mine. Did he break anything?”  He just smiled at me, patted me on the shoulder, and walked off chuckling. 

And then I hear it….out of the men’s room just outside of the chapel, I hear my husband’s youngest son singing at the top of his lungs…."Shout, shout, let it all out!”  Nothing says mourning like singing Tears for Fears in the crapper. I open the door to the men’s room and apparently hit my horns on the door ‘cuz I’m seeing colors I ain’t never seen before. “Reagan, for the love of God and your own life, get….your…butt….out….here….now!” I am one flowery, pill-box hat away from going completely Thelma Harper at this point.

And then my child, aka the Posthumous Paparazzi and Single-Stall Sinatra, comes struttin’ out, smiles, and says “Hey, Mom!”  Bless his heart.

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