Becky Says...

November 2004

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November 28

In August, I wrote of my cousin Virginia. Around that same time, I told a friend of mine about her funeral, and I thought you might enjoy the story, too.

Virginia had lived most of her adult life in this part of the state. When she died, she was to be buried in Gastonia, which was her hometown and is four miles from my Dallas. None of her grandchildren, who were making the plans, were close to Gastonia-area clergy, so they wound up letting the funeral home pick. Bad, bad idea. If I had known ahead of time, I would have offered to arrange that for them. But anyway.

This was to be a graveside service, and the weather was hot. Mother was, by that time, unsteady enough on her feet that she decided against going, but I went. I got there early enough to chitchat with some friends, and found a spot to be seated. I knew we were in for something interesting when the rent-a-clergy showed up with a seriously large tape/sound system---think karaoke with no lyric screen. And he looked like the clergy version of an Elvis impersonator. No sequins, but much hair gel. Which is a good thing, I guess, because a breeze started about the time the service did.

I was absolutely sure we were in for it when he started blathering, about how he hadn't known Mrs. HerLastName, blah, blah. Then he flipped a switch and music started. It was an accompaniment tape, and he started singing a hymn about going to heaven; one I don't know.

It got worse. I was sitting there, holding onto my straw hat (a lovely one, bought just because I wanted it earlier that summer, but which seriously needed a hatpin in that breeze. I had no such pin on me.) and wondering what he would do to follow the song.

Turns out what he did was insult Virginia. One thing you should not do if you're a stranger to the family but are leading a funeral in that part of the world is cast any doubt about whether the deceased is in heaven. But he did. He again launched into how he didn't know Mrs. HerLastName, and went on to say that if she were in heaven, he hoped he'd get to meet her. There was much silence at that point, of the holding-of-breath variety.

In my mind, I was waiting for Virginia to sit up and declare him the rude idiot that he was. I remember thinking, "Virginia, just calm down; he'll shut up in a few minutes."

Mercifully, it was soon over, and I got to speak to the people I needed to speak to before leaving for the family home. At the house, we all managed not to discuss the remarks made at the service, or the sound system. We told anecdotes about Virginia, and did other family-gathering things.

There was a storm that afternoon. Once it let up, I headed home. I stopped to get the mail, and ran into a close friend, who knew where I had been. He asked how it had gone. I answered, "I know I'm going to hell for this, but ..." and told him pretty much what I told you. We stood in the Post Office and laughed till we both had tears running down our faces. After that, I went home and told Mother, who thoroughly enjoyed the tale.

Text © copyright 2000-2004 Becky