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Domesticated, Not Demasculinized

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Funerals May Be the New (or old) Starbucks

Posted by doatmon on October 9, 2006

At what point do we become blase about death? Could it be about the same time we start using words like blase? I mean seriously. Give me a walker and point me toward the early bird specials. What am I 80?

Sadly, the father of my wife’s best friend passed away last week and we drove to her hometown outside of Pittsburgh for the calling hours and funeral this weekend. It was crushing for my wife. She has known this man since she was in elementary school and he was truly like a second father. I think he cried more at our wedding than her own father. Well, her “real” father cried too, but it was more out of disbelief that she was actually marrying me. Her second father cried out of joy.

This was a father of many. A husband. A prominent person within the little “berg” outside of the “Burgh.” God-fearing Catholic. And he was a figure to emulate for me. He had three daughters in the house. He was the lone man. This is apparently my lot in life. He taught me two things. 1) Always have “your chair.” You need something that is yours and doesn’t have make-up, barbies or estrogen on it. and 2) Develop selective hearing. I learned a lot from this man.

Can you begin to see the situation? He was a great man. Loved by many. And yet, I was appalled by what I saw at his calling hours. Sure there were a lot of people there. Packed the room. Everyone was there for a reason. Sadly, none of them seemed to be to pay their respects.

Let me run down the people that were there:

– The networkers…you could tell these people right away as they usually started the conversation with, I worked with him at _______. The conversation quickly becomes, yes, I’m at _____ now. Did I mention that I was awarded the golden mop last year for excellence in janitorial conduct? Here’s my resume if you’re ever looking.

– The flower people…these are the people that inevitably ignore EVERY indication in an obit or otherwise that IN LIEU of flowers, please send donations to XXXX. Sure there are circumstances where flowers are appropriate. But I honestly saw people walk in, look all over for their flowers, knocking women and children over in the process, check the card and the requisite orchids and leave. Never even paid their respects. But they found their flowers. The ones they weren’t supposed to send.

– The planners…these people usually had an oxygen tank or drove in on an invacare scooter. They closely scrutinized everything from the death notice, to the guest book to the coffin to the arrangement of the chairs. It’s like going to model homes for decorating advice. And somehow they thought it was perfectly acceptable.

– The horny…yes, the wedding crasher cliche is true. You could look around the room and see the guys/girls trying to “re-connect” with emotionally vulnerable people. They were the ones with arms around people’s shoulders and giving nonchalant squeezes. Is that ever NOT creepy?

and finally … the worst …

– The gossip hounds…these conversations usually began with, “You know who else he was friends with…XXXXX…whatever happened to…wasn’t his wife doinking the Dunkin Doughnuts guy?” They are there solely to find out what they’ve missed in this person’s life and the lives of his friends. These people are especially prominant in smaller towns and yet leave a bad taste in your mouth. Like RC cola. Has anyone seen that crap in a town larger than 25,000 people?

Sure, there were family. There were friends. But these people were in the MINORITY. I suppose I am lucky. I haven’t had to deal with a lot of death in my life. To me, death is mostly reserved for relatives I barely knew, my hamsters and Princess Di. So maybe everyone else is resigned to this reality. I am not. I was appalled and horrified. So let me apologize for the rest of those in attendance this past weekend. And Mr. Conwell: the world is a better place for you having lived. And my wife’s life is better for having known you. God bless. And Go Steelers.

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