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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Limousine Farts: Part III

This is the third and final post regarding the passing of my Great-Aunt Mickey, last matriarch and "grand dame" of my family. If you haven't yet, and you'd like to, you may read Part I and/or Part II. There are two benefits, as I see it, to reading the two prior posts.

1.) It will give you some context about the woman and the circumstances surrounding her death.

2.) It will explain why I've chosen to honor an important member of my family with such a dubious-sounding blog title. Believe me, it's not just because I have no class and was raised in a family where "motherfucker" was a frequently heard coming from our dining room by people walking their dogs in the summertime.



Nobody looks forward to a funeral-- except for Harold and Maude.

Even I, who looks for any opportunity to dress up, don't like funerals. The first one I ever went to was when I was eight years old. I skipped my great-grandmother's husband's funeral a couple months earlier, and so, I think primarily motivated out of guilt, I attended the funeral of Dr. Porter, our elderly neighbor. It was in the summertime, and I wore a short-sleeved green and blue plaid shirt, a white knit necktie, white pants and white shoes. I must have looked like I was going to a kid's golf tournament, but my parents didn't stop me. Nobody ever stopped me from doing anything.

I've been to lots of funerals in my life. As part of the research for the book I wrote in college on law enforcement fatalities, I started attending the funerals for slain police officers. While in college, I attended funerals for police officers who got shot, and two officers in two different cases in two different cities who were accidentally killed by other officers in car crashes while responding to calls for help. I've attended police funerals and/or viewings in several states, and the total comes to probably around fifteen or so. There are lots of rituals and everybody who attends knows exactly what to expect. With few exceptions, everything is pretty much the same. Interminable bagpipes, interminable motorcades, interminable platitudes, interminable young widows crying out in vain.

I hate police funerals, but I've shown up at lots of them-- usually in one of my dark suits, once in my EMT uniform, a respectful black mourning band partially covering my badge. I've stopped wearing white pants at funerals, and anywhere else. I suppose, in a few short decades, I'll start up again.

"You know you don't have to go to Mickey's funeral," my mother advised me, "I don't even want to go."

"Ma, nobody wants to fucking go, but we go because we have to go."

And fucking go we did.

When we got to the cemetery, no one would get out of the car. There we were, my father, my mother, my oldest sister, my wife and I, sitting there like little children in the parking lot on the first day of kindergarten-- not budging-- no way. You see, there were people standing by the gravesite, and, in my family, we don't talk to people, even if we're related to them. Well, except for my father-- he talks to anybody. So, he got out, and started schmoozing. We stayed in the car for another twenty-five minutes.

Car after car came. Some people, like my uncle, stopped at our car, peered in, and waved. We waved back, but we didn't move. People who didn't know us, and whom we didn't know, just walked on by us.

Aunt Mickey had specified that this was to be a very, very small affair-- for close family only. Well, Aunt Mickey had specified a lot of things. I could recount the whole dismal happening blow by blow for you but, instead, I think I'm going to go in a different direction. See-- for police funerals, there are actual manuals that dictate exactly what is supposed to happen, when, and how, down to the most minute detail. Behavior is also strictly regulated by commanding officers.

At civilian funerals-- all bets are off. There are no rules, and, as far as I know, there are no manuals, so, after viewing Aunt Mickey's funeral and, after having had some time to digest the various displays that were on, well, display there, I decided to create a sort of manual myself, not just for my family, but for all families.

It's called Funeral Rulerals.


Here we go:

Funeral Ruleral #1: If you were actively suing the decedent until the moment of her death, it is generally regarded as poor form to show up at said decedent's funeral.

Funeral Ruleral #2: If you were actively suing the decedent until the moment of her death, and you make the ill-advised decision to ignore Funeral Ruleral #1, it is further ill-advised that you read a long, prepared statement at said decedent's funeral.

Funeral Ruleral #3: If you were actively suing the decedent until the moment of her death, and you make the ill-advised decision to ignore Funeral Rulerals #1 & #2, it is further ill-advised that you avoid blatant, provable lies in your long, prepared statement.

Funeral Ruleral #4: Crocs are not appropriate footwear at funerals, even if you are a child, and especially if you are an overweight, elderly Jewish man.

Funeral Ruleral #5: If the decedent has specifically requested that her funeral be entirely devoid of religious iconography, themes, overtones, music, and/or prayer, you should probably leave the Hebrew at home and take that wooden Star of David off said decedent's casket.

Funeral Ruleral #6: If the decedent has clearly stated that her funeral should be for close family only, and you were employed by her in the 1980s, you should probably stay at home.

Funeral Ruleral #7: If the decedent has clearly stated that her funeral should be for close family only, and you were employed by her in the 1980s, and you have disregarded Funeral Ruleral #6, don't make it worse by speaking at the funeral-- your being there is awkward enough.

Funeral Ruleral #8: If you are observably intoxicated, please refrain from attending a funeral. Though it is prehaps acceptable and, in some instances, expected, to be drunk at an Irish wake, people are anticipated to be sober at actual funerals as a general rule. On the decorum spectrum, showing up shitfaced at a graveside service is typically regarded as pretty low. On the practical side, some cemeteries are on sloping and/or uneven ground, and you may very well fall over.

Funeral Ruleral #9: If you are observably intoxicated and choose to disregard Funeral Ruleral #8, please do not make a speech at the funeral. The only person who ever had anything interesting or coherent to say while inebriated was W. C. Fields, and he's dead.

Funeral Ruleral #10: This one is for the officiant: you're being paid to be here. Everything at a funeral is the same except, generally, for the decedent's name. Please pay special, delicate eattention and learn the decedent's fucking name. Memorize it. Write it on your hand. Make up some sort of clever mnemonic-- just learn the goddamn dead person's name.

Funeral Ruleral #11: Also for the officiant: if you fail to heed Funeral Ruleral #10, then at least do not confuse the decedent's name with the name of her daughter who, up until the moment of her death, was suing the decedent. Because that's awkward.


  1. You'd be surprised how many times I've seen Funeral Ruleral #10 broken. It is painfully cringeworthy to hear the official fuck up the name.

    Also, this daughter of hers has a lot of gall. I would have thought Funeral Rulerals 1, 2 and 3 didn't really need to be said.

    And crocs; They should be burned. Or buried in a hole of their own.

  2. I was reading up on Part II, and I'm glad to learn I'm not the only one who's had unusual reactions to news of death. When my 4th grade teacher died of cancer, i was inconsolable - i cried for the entire day. but i barely shed a tear when my grandfather died 10 years ago, even though we were very close. they were just two different physical reactions to the news, although the sorrow wasn't very different at all.

  3. My God, Apron, how many speeches were there?


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