Saturday, August 10, 2013

Funeral Etiquette, Clothing and The Swing

Rising to meet the world today was a little harder than usual.  My husband and sons had already discussed our morning plans the night before, so when I rose to let the chickens out, I knew what lay ahead.  Today was the funeral of a friend, my brother's father in law Mack.

The day before, my brother had called and told me the obituary was online in the local web version of the paper.  I looked.  It simply said he was born, he died, the funeral will be held at this place.  But below the small lines was a link on funeral etiquette.  I clicked, how could I not.  I was surprised to find several writers talking about how to dress, what not to say, what not to do.  Being raised a southern woman, there were always rules.  Summer black, simple dress, pearls.  Bowed heads, folded hands, modest steps.  Reading through the posts, I realized how uncomfortable this will be for many.  My own husband says, "I don't know what to say."  The advice of the bloggers: tell the truth.  If you say, "our prayers are for you", mean it.  Otherwise, stick with sorry for your loss.

With this back drop, I was proud when both my boys opted for ties and shirts (no they left the jackets off given the 90 degrees and humidity of Tallahassee).  They both asked if they looked okay, clean shaven and khakied up.  My husband, old school, wore the jacket and tie anyway.  I stuck to black skirt and seersucker jacket.  We left together, all dressed on a Saturday morning, headed for the funeral.

We have known Mack and his family almost twenty years.  We met through his lovely daughter, Lisa,who eventually married my brother.  Hence forth, all family gatherings included them or us.  The generosity and kindness of Lisa's family was exemplified by Mack's questions.  He always asked the same ones:

Where is Charles (my husband)? and Where are the children?

Mack was a kind and gentle soul.  And arriving to the funeral home did not seem so hard.  I had fond memories and knew the family and Mack had lived to 89, a full and rich life. I was surrounded by my family and Mack's family.  Then, one of his grandchildren came up to hug me.  I have known him for almost 20 years as well.  I told him that my fondest memory of his grandfather was the swings that he made for all the children, including mine.  Round wooden discs that had holes in the center for the rope to run through and to extend upwards to the sky over a high limb.  All the children had one in their yard.  All the children congregated there, for fun, for talking, for fighting, for crying.  I can still see my teenage daughter sitting on the swing, long legs twirling around and round,  talking on her phone and crying over some awful teenage thing.

The swing sits idle today.  But even now, when the "kids" come home, there can be fights and shouts on whose turn it might be to swing. And I am sure that there will be more joy and happiness and emotion and jousting over that swing.  Mack knew how to relate.  Keep it simple, keep it accessible, keep it fun.

Not a bad way to be remembered, if you think about it.  So here is to you Mack.  Thanks for the lessons in making children happy and funeral etiquette.  You will be remembered warmly.