Sunday, February 14, 2010

Humor: Funerals

I was raised Catholic and of Croatian descent, this alone means you go to every funeral of every Croatian in town. By the time I was 27, I left the church, opting for a more fundamentalist approach to my beliefs. I still was required to attend relative's funerals or be blackballed from the family. The Catholic funerals have many traditions; for example, waving the incense and later at the burial, the individual incense blessing. Not believing this will help the deceased, I never informed my children about any of the funeral traditions, so they were pretty clueless.

My aunt had always taken photos of the relatives in their open caskets so that she had a memory of them on their last day. Mind you, the cameras at that time were not digital and the color was bad; add this to the bad coloring of the deceased and you got pictures that looked like various versions of "Grandpa" on the Munsters. She was pleased though and made copies for everyone in the family, I would bring them home and my children would make comments on what a creepy family they were born into.

Finally, my aunt met her maker and we, as a family, went to her funeral. This was the first Catholic funeral my children had to attend. Most of the older women were donned in their "mourning" attire - black long dresses, black shawls, and black scarves. They were moaning and crying which made my three younger children look constantly over their shoulders wondering if this was some kind of witch cult and wondered if they were going have a spell cast on them. The Mass was very long and children, being children could not sit still. I am still known in that congregation as a very bad mother who couldn't keep her children respectful and still.

So, once the Mass was over, we jumped into the cars for the procession to the cemetery. I am glad we had our own car and did not ride in the limo as my two older boys and I were joking about the various funeral "criers" that were present. Once at the cemetery, the family gathered around the casket and the priest said a few words (of which I have no idea), then he passed around something that looked like a microphone that was dipped in the incense bowl. Each person shook it over the casket as a blessing to the dead person. My 8-year-old looked at me as it was being passed to him and I said, "No, your hand will fall off if you touch it." He withdrew his hand in horror and it was passed, instead to the next person. Of course my older boys and a couple of nephews had a very hard time keeping a straight face, also the comment brought many glares from the mourning relatives.

My mother, who I am sure I was responsible for sending to an early grave, scolded me and said, "I suppose you will do the same at my funeral." I told her that I probably would, but she would be dead and wouldn't care. With that, she started to laugh and we all enjoyed the rest of the day at the potluck. Of course, no one would talk to me but my mother and my children - hey, the food was great and I was too busy eating to visit anyway.

A few years later my mother died and to our surprise, she did not want a Catholic funeral or Mass. She opted for a simple ceremony at the funeral home and graveside with no incense throwing. Some of the grandchildren stood up with wonderful eulogies and mom's friends from church commented that they have never before been to a funeral like that and it was, surprisingly, beautiful. Way to go Mom!

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