I’m listening to this audiobook by Sophie Hudson called “A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet” and it’s all about how she grew up in Mississippi, her experiences with her family, the spiritual things she learned along the way. But it’s so funny, and for me at least, so relatable. She talks about these southern etiquette rules, and how important they are to wedding planning and funeral planning. And that started me thinking about my own experiences with weddings and funerals.
I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country because I was born and raised in the south and have never had the desire to live anywhere else. The only other place I’ve even considered moving was to Charleston (South Carolina, not West Virginia), which is even more southern than where I am now, only with the smell of horses and seafood and ocean breezes.
Anyway, down here in this part of the world, weddings and funerals are a big deal. Most recently I’ve had more funerals than weddings, unfortunately, but I’ve noticed a thing or two. First, the planning goes way faster. I mean, people spend months on wedding planning. My own took almost a year. Meanwhile, a funeral can be completely planned from start to finish in less than 2 days. Also, they cost almost the same thing. It is not cheap to have a loved one pass.
Second, the same people usually come to both weddings and funerals. It might be people you haven’t seen in years. Some of them are there because they love you and want to support you (you being the family member, not the deceased or the betrothed). Some are there because they knew the deceased or the betrothed and they want to say their goodbyes and pay their respects. Some are there because they are curious and want to see what kind of party you throw. Sad, but true and honest feedback here.. The photos above are from my mom’s funeral. So many people loved her. And I think very few were there for the wrong reasons and almost everyone there because of love for her and our family. It was amazing.
And third, they are both so incredibly stressful the sometimes you just want them to be over. By the time my wedding rehearsal came around, Other Half and I were arguing so bad I asked him to pull over on the side of the road on the way to the venue and let my parents pick me up because I didn’t want to be in that car another second. And it had nothing to do with our relationship and everything to do with the fact that the wedding itself is like the event equivalent of a stress test. Sometimes you have a heart issue sometimes you don’t, but either way you have chest pain.
At my mom’s funeral it was so strange. We had been through so many losses recently that I felt like a pro at the funeral thing. But it was different because it was my mom. That layer of distance that sort of protected me from the other losses wasn’t there. I was trying to hold it together and be the oldest child who takes all the responsibility, and it was suffocating. I was lucky to have a huge supportive family, and one Aunt who knows what it’s like to be the oldest girl with another who has planned countless weddings and funerals, who was there with hugs at all the right times.
During the planning though, I got a text message from a friend at work. I got many— people were so supportive— but this one in particular said, “hoping for a few smiles today.”
Well, that happened to be the day we were meeting with the funeral director. He was trying to explain the components of the service with dignity and a somber respect. But, as I’ve mentioned, I live in the south. Down here it’s always some kind of hunting season. (Like on Bugs Bunny- “Rabbit season, duck season, rabbit season, duck season!)
Where I’m from, dove season, deer season, turkey season, and rabbit season are a big deal. So as we’re getting to the part where we discuss the graveside service, he says, “The only service we don’t offer at this time of the year is a dove release. We’ve done that in the past, and unfortunately, it being this time of year and all, the doves don’t always make it back.”
And right there, I laughed for maybe the first time since my mom died, because I knew deep down he was right. And because it would be so appropriate if the doves we released to mark her soul’s journey to heaven ended up being shot from the sky by an overzealous hunter, because that’s basically what the past year had felt like anyway. Mary Ann described our year to a family friend as, “We’re just target practice for Jesus I think.”
So, I texted my friend and told him all about the laughs, and he said he could scare me up some chickens. I have a feeling no matter which part of the country you are from, chickens at a funeral would leave quite the impression. All this to say, find the joy where you can. Life might be terrible. But usually, there’s something to smile about. Hang in there.