FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND
If you're not familiar w/the Elton John song, let me just say I have heard it enough to last a lifetime (pun completely intended!).
One of the two summers I worked at Sea World (yes, keep laughing.....get it out of your system) at a beer stand that was strategically located between two open-air auditoriums. One was the Shamu pavilion - w/their Jaws 3D show. Going back in the time/tie-in machine - Jaws 3D was partially filmed at the Orlando Sea World. The other shell had the seal & otter show: Clyde and Seymour's Spooky Kooky Castle. The show began w/Elton's song, but in the middle of the show, they played "Puttin' on the Ritz", the one from Young Frankenstein, b/c if Clyde (or was it Seymour?) had the ability to sing, presumably he would sound like Peter Boyle's monster.
Number of shows per day were based on park attendance. The shows alternated (i.e. not on at the same times), sometimes up to nine times per day! Needless to say, I knew every word, every pause, every sound effect and could countdown the seconds till there was a splash of Shamu and/or Namu hitting the water (side note: 'the breeding pool' really wasn't. Shamu and Namu were both females!). Janine, the girl who worked at the gift shoppe across from my stand, and I would take parts and mouth out each performance. During shows we were pretty fuckin' slow.
But I digress. I didn't really plan on blogging on Sea World.
Yesterday, as I sat in Temple-Tifereth Israel, at the funeral of a great aunt, I reflected on death as one will in these situations and other funerals I had been to. Martha was a kind and accomplished woman - not that the rabbi seemed to be able to convey that. At least one of her sons did - and the eulogy came out quite nice. Quite the turn-out too. I'd estimate 400-500 people.
I didn't reflect on how many would show to mine (22), but just how funerals say they are to celebrate the life of the deceased but inevitably they end up just mourning it....or themselves.
As they took the casket out to the hearse, I had what has become a recurring thoughts of some of the previous funerals I'd attended:
The tainted memory of my grandfather's funeral. One of my uncles insisted that I be a pall bearer. I was in 6th grade!!! No kid should have to do that. And those caskets are heavy! I wasn't doing my part - there's no way an 11 year old could. It warped me for all other funerals. I was however fascinated that the backs of hearses have little rollers. Who knew?
Or Mitchell's funeral. Maybe I hadn't developed any more upper body strength in the 20 yrs after my grandfather's funeral - but that casket was just as heavy. The weight I really carried was that of guilt. My lack of contact w/Mitchell the last month of his life was unconscionable. For my own fears and inability to look in that mirror (so to speak), I couldn't be there for someone I cared about and with whom I shared so many things. His 'wife', Midge, forgave me - but I've never forgiven myself.
At a cousin's funeral, my mother and I had a little row about her wanting me to go up to the open casket. I had no intention of kneeling in front of the coffin and looking at a body that didn't barely resembled the woman who was my cousin. In the middle of the funeral hall she told me to 'grow-up' and just do it. My response was that I was a grown-up and had made my decision.
I'm not afraid of seeing a corpse - but it is not the last memory I want to have of someone I know. The old adage of 'they look so natural' or 'they look at peace' if just hooey. Maybe others can talk themselves into that - I can't.
At my brother-in-law's mother's funeral (following me?), I really don't think anyone gave a second thought to playing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" at the end of the service. I'm sorry - but it was all I could do not to burst out laughing. I know Denton got it b/c we exchanged glances as the Frank began w/the lyrics: "....and now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain..." Oh l-rd! I know they were trying to say that she did things her way......but really people, listen to the lyrics!!!!
But in temple, I had this recurring realization: I'm no longer the youngest person in the room. Perhaps mentally I am. I keep thinking, for whatever reason, I don't look/feel as old as I am. And that I'm not as old as 'them'. But in truth, I am 'them'.