I attended a funeral earlier this week for someone I grew up closely with but hadn’t seen in quite some time. At 52, he was way too young to be taken away from his family, but then age never makes it easier to lose someone, does it?
The methods by which we bury loved ones are so depressing and, I think, a bit odd as well. Why do we sit and stare at a casket or an urn filled with someone’s remains in an unfamiliar building or next to a cold hole in the ground while someone says things intended to comfort but only makes us cry harder? It doesn’t make much sense to me, and it only seems to make things worse, facing the glaring evidence that this person we love is never coming back. Not all cultures follow the same path to burial but the end result is still the same. Finality. Grief. Heartache. Loss.
No one likes to attend a funeral. Aside from the other reasons I mentioned, they remind us that we’re mortal, that any moment our own time can be up, that we need to make the most of things while we still have a chance, and that we might want to make amends for things we’ve done or people we’ve wronged.
Funerals make me melancholy for days, or sometimes weeks, afterward, which probably explains why I’m writing this. Despite its connotations, I happen to like the word melancholy. Yes, it means gloomy or depressed, but it can also mean pensive or thoughtful. An occasional introspection is a necessary thing, or at least it should be, if we want to remain decent human beings.
When I attend a funeral I don’t just think about the person I’m saying goodbye to, I think of others I’ve lost before them. And that’s okay, even though it sometimes makes me even sadder. Yet buried deep in that lasting loss are sweet, sweet memories.
I’ve lost too many special people but two of those I miss nearly every day is my cousin, Kevin, and my maternal grandmother, affectionately known as Granny, of course. So I thought I’d share a funny story which involved them both.
Kevin and I were extremely close growing up, him being 1 year older than me and living close by, and we had a knack for getting into mischief together when we were kids. One day we found ourselves at my granny’s house without any supervision. I was around 12 or 13 at the time so Kevin had to have been 13 or 14. Old enough to be left alone for a bit but still young enough to lack good sense. I don’t remember where Granny had gone but apparently we had a few hours to find trouble and we got the crazy idea that we wanted to make homemade donuts.
We must’ve found a recipe in one of her many, many yellowed and dog-eared cookbooks and off we went, measuring and mixing. Then we dumped the dough out to knead and cut. Problem was the dough was too sticky to roll out so we kept adding flour, which meant that you had to add more of everything else, or so we thought. By the time we were finished we’d used up all my granny’s flour, milk and whatever else the recipe called for AND we had this humongous ball of dough, still a bit gummy mind you.
We managed to cut a few “donuts” out and fry them up. Yes, two kids frying things in hot grease. Christ, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the house down too. Well, they tasted like utter crap. Big surprise there, huh?
Somewhere around this time we realized that not only had we wasted ALL of Granny’s flour and milk and oil and God knows what else, we had nothing to show for it and we’d made a giant mess of her kitchen. When she came home we were going to get our butts whipped. Our solution? Hide the evidence!
So the both of us carted that gargantuan ball of dough out to the woods and proceeded to toss it. But instead of landing in the bushes so it would be hidden like we’d hoped, it landed on a low-hanging limb of an Oak tree and hung there like some giant white alien blob. The longer it hung, the more it stretched. Our genius plan had backfired but we still held out hope that she wouldn’t notice, perhaps the squirrels or raccoons or some other foolish hungry creature would eat the mess, and we’d get away with it.
Granny came home to a spotless kitchen - which should’ve tipped her off right then that somethin’ was up - and proceeded to start supper. You know what’s coming, don’t you? My sweet southern Granny made biscuits with EVERY meal. You can’t make biscuits without flour and milk. O.O
What did Kevin and I tell her? The neighbors came over and borrowed some.
Now my granny bought flour by the sack, not the bag. There is a difference. Remember those sacks of Dixie Lily flour that used to come with a dishrag sewn into the seam? (Yes, I’m approaching old.) They must’ve held 20 pounds and she kept it stored in a big red plastic bin so she could just scoop out what she needed. Granny went through a LOT of flour. Well, so had we, but in a much shorter period of time.
She didn’t really buy that the neighbor lady had borrowed that much flour. And our little tale was made much more unbelievable because Kevin and I couldn’t keep from giggling. We knew we were in big trouble, about to get our asses beat but good for wasting all her vitally important ingredients.
A funny thing happened, though, when we drug her outside to show her the “masterpiece” we’d hung in the tree…she started laughing. She laughed so hard her shoulders shook and she nearly lost her breath. We didn’t get a whipping, but we did get banned from ever making anything else in her kitchen while she wasn’t home and she was pretty upset that we’d lied to her.
There was one other time Kevin and I swiped something from her kitchen cupboard. We were a few years older and it involved a bottle of Jim Beam, but that’s another story.
I have a lot of great memories of those two, all of ‘em good if not bittersweet. Those are the things I think of when I’m missing them. Not what they were buried in or what the flowers looked like or what the preacher offered when we said goodbye.
That’s what you have to reach for to make it tolerable ’cause nothing makes it easier.