We stood outside the church after a memorial service recently and one of my neighbors remarked, “Don’t you just love a funeral where you know everybody.” It’s true to a certain degree. There’s a special consolation in reminiscing with friends and relatives about the deceased; the stories are always happy ones. That is unless it’s a child; there’s no consolation when a child dies.
I’ve been to too many funerals lately: two moms in the same family, and a dear gentle man that made me smile every Sunday for over 20 years.
Years ago, when our neighbor down the road, State Representative Gene Godt, died, his memorial service was a fitting tribute to him and his incredible sense of humor. A large number of people, including the governor at that time, Madeleine Kunin, stood up at the service and told story after funny story about Gene. Friends who were sad to see him go, chuckled and giggled as the tales were dragged out, dusted off and presented as the gifts that they were.
I was a teenager when I attended a funeral for the first time. It was for my grandfather, the patriarch of a family of eight children and reams of grandchildren. My cousins and I nervously clung to each other as we did our duty and presented ourselves at the funeral home in Hartford that catered to armies of Irish families, generations upon generations. My grandfather had died from heart failure at 80 after beating cancer 20 years earlier.
There was a little wailing, but that was to be expected. There was a little bar, and that was also to be expected.
When my husband’s grandmother died at 97 our families gathered at the funeral home to accept the condolences and good wishes of people she had known over the many years. One elderly Irish lady came in, looking suitably stricken as she proclaimed loudly and incredulously, “I just can’t believe it!” This set off a spate of “funeral giggles” among the bereaved.
After my mother-in-law’s burial we found an unexpected case of champagne that she had arranged to have delivered to the house when we returned from the cemetery. How classy is that?
My friend George, who died just a couple of weeks ago, got a royal sendoff from his legions of friends and family. The church where he served for so many years, was packed. Members of the congregation sang their hearts out and wept to the strains of “Danny Boy,” a tune guaranteed to melt a stone. An old friend of mine once told me that his father had requested “Danny Boy” at his brother’s memorial service. I said, “Oh, was your brother named Danny?” and he replied, “No, he just wanted everybody to gave a good cry.”
My husband and I have discussed the kind of send-off we want when the time comes. We have it all scrawled on a piece of paper that’s tucked in the desk and our children know about it. We occasionally update it, but one thing remains the same: for a recessional he wants “Give My Regards to Broadway.”
I might just go with “Danny Boy.”