Today was the funeral. The temperature was chilly and dropping this morning, with a brisk wind and thickly clouded skies. It felt like late October for this part of the country. My grandmother is cautious about getting out in cold weather since a bad winter a couple of years ago during which we nearly lost her to pneumonia and heart complications, so she decided not to attend the graveside services, although she did still want to go to Jane's funeral.
As I sat beside my grandmother in the funeral home, I had to wonder if things could get much worse. The pianist was...well, rusty might be a kind word. The singers were...very...they knew most of the words. And the speaker was...well intentioned, I'm sure. I sat in a pink, vinyl padded chair that made startling noises when one shifted one's weight and tried to hold very still. I counted lonely looking carnations in a couple of scraggly funeral arrangements. I considered the wallpaper border, the strategically placed boxes of Kleenex and the polyester suit jackets of the gentlemen in front of us. I remembered passing out in this room when I was twelve, at my piano teacher's husband's funeral. I remembered standing jam-packed here when I was fourteen with my friends at a crowded funeral for one of our close classmates whose brother had shot him, their step-mother and step-sister after school one day. I remembered a double funeral here ten years ago for two of a good friend's brothers, killed in a car wreck when one fell asleep at the wheel late at night. I remembered visitation in this room seven years ago, after my grandfather died; it was overflowing with flowers then, full of friends and family, photographs and shared memories. That night, the night it should have been least bearable for me, given the closeness of our family, it was a good place to be. I listened again to the halting piano playing, the somewhat wandering singing, the rather befuddling (or befuddled) speaker. I let my gaze linger on the lavender roses in the lavishly lovely casket spray. I considered the way the men in the polyester jackets put their arms around their wives or bowed their heads during the prayer, the way they slowly made their way down the aisle to pay their last respects, hats in hand.
Good Lord, the last thing I want at my funeral is music like this or this kind of speaking! But..the people. If good people could say of me what I heard a young man behind me saying of Jane...I could maybe bear even this room. "The Bible says to man is alloted eighty years. Jane had ninety-three, and she used that gift well."
To use our gift well, not in light of accomplishments or successes, but in light of people, of lives touched. I cannot think of a better eulogy.