Saturday, December 03, 2005

Proper Etiquette for Grieving People


The mass italics below is a response to my friend Ro who just lost her dad. She was saying that some folks thought it strange that she would host an open mic poetry set during this time. She is a poet.

Behavior at a viewing, wake or funeral
A friend of mine you may know, Ray (Buddy) McNiece is burying his mom today. He did a gig Weds and maybe has one tomorrow. I couldn't go to funeral today. I'll be surprised if a lot of poets didn't show and if poetry wasn't read. I went to the viewing yesterday. Got there late because of the snow and I was the only one to see Delores. I walked in as the vacuum cleaner was going and folks preparing for the viewing. I knelt and prayed for a while. I made a note from a flyer I had. It originally said "Party at the Speed of Light". I tore off the "y" in party and wrote a eulogy of sorts and put it in the coffin. I hope nobody was offended. I'd be offended if people don't do that at mine. I never met Delores but I wrote in the memories book because I have 10 years of Ray's life on stage, in meetings, etc.

Our particular nuclear Clan and toward my mother's side of the family are not very emotional or rather I should say we don't readily show them. Out of my parents, my sister and I, I am the most subsceptible to wailing and crying. When my father died there was none of that! Just our wet eyes. I don't know about mom and sis but I was choking back tears. Mom silently wept and rocked side to side. My sister looked straight ahead very erect and proper silently crying.

My dad's sister Leola was a wailer and did not hold back.

I have a huge family. At one of our family reunions the family facilitators counted 500 folk for our sit down dinner and that was without the kids. During this entire time you could hear jokes about dad being told in rememberance. Mom tells this story of dad killing a rattlesnake with a rake. He swung the rake so hard that he knocked himself backward and tumbled completely head over heals. she still laughs about that.

I've been to funerals where libations and bourbon where in order.

I remember when the head of a local motor cycle gang/club died. I say gang/club because it's hard to tell unless you have intimate knowledge of them or they get in the paper a lot. Some clubs like the Zulus are more social clubs and everybody has a legit day gig like "Pee Wee" who works at the post office, but ya can't tell to look at them. There are also members that are a little less savory.

AfroDog was the name of the deceased. It was a pretty amazing site. So many gangs were represented, the Soul Players, the Zulus, Pagans, Banditos (Ithink they were there). It was somber and respectful and a little tense because of some truces up for the funeral.

Sorry for your loss hon. It's not strange to be at a reading. We are a peculiar people so folks ain't always gonna get it.

Proper Dress

Growing up I went to a lot of funerals and folks were always dressed up. this is still proper ettiquette for us. As an adult I went to a funeral for the father of my friend Thaddeus Root. Thad wore a long green, tattered army coat, black pants and army boots. So that was dressed up for Thadeus. I guess he wasn't breaking any rules.... At my funeral wear something clean. Needless to say Afro Dog's funeral was about full bike regalia and if I remember correctly, mostly Harleys.

Remebering the Dead

Many times when I go to visit family in Alabama I will catch a group of my elders getting together that haven't seen each other in a while.... or sometimes they have. There will be a period of (names ficticious):

Uncle John: "U 'member ole Saul? Lived down by da ole cotton gin 'round da way?"

Uncle Obadiah: "Don't belive I doooo."

Uncle John: "You know! Married uncle Dave's boy dat had da rickets and one eye...!"

Uncle Obadiah: " Oooooh Yeahhh."

Uncle John: "He died."

Uncle Obadiah: "Umm. umm. umm. Well you member Virginia Dobbs lived atop da mountain over yonder?"

Uncle John: "Don't belive I doooo."

Uncle Obadiah: "Yeah ya do! You used to be sweet on her back in nineteen ought nine! Moved to Arkansas bout twenty sebbun yeahs ago."

Uncle John: "Hmm. hmm. hmm. I almos' forgot."

Uncle Obadiah: "She died.... Hundred lebben yeahs ole. Blind since she was sixty sebben."

The Proper Thing to Say when yo get the News

If you happened to have missed a funeral as of course often happens you 'd respond to the news with, "How was the funeral?" If you were at the funeral you might respond, "Awww it was beautiful!! So and So looked real good..." or "It was beautiful but so and so lost so much weight, didn't look liker herself." or whatever. On my dad's side of the family we do "marathon funeral"

If you've never seen (Atheist and god haters may not want to read the link and then again you may get a good laugh. It's scripture from the Bible and we hold it very dear to our hears. Enter at your own risk) a Masonic Funeral you are missing a treat. Very beautiful with lots of pomp and circumstance. At my father's funeral the Highway Patrol had officers posted at each intersection the procession passed. They stood at attention by their cars with the lights flashing until the procession passed. Wow!

When my dad died I didn't skip a beat. I went right back to work. We weren't estranged or anything but I wondered at how I was more broken up over the death of Bob Bergman, former director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Was it because I didn't know if he was going to heaven? Was it because I saw him daily and my dad lived in Alabama? Was it the arguments and discussions we had about art? I think it's because I know I'll see me father again. Anyway I think about him a lot and I am apt to say a lot of things that he said... repeatedly, that I see myself passing on to my daughter:

"As long as someone owes you, you'll never be poor."

" My eyesight is so good, I can peep down through muddy water and spot dry land!" we both wore glasses and I am legally blid w/o my glasses.

"I had the patience of Job."

"Work smarter not harder."

I have his sense of humor in a lot of ways. He was a storyteller, I am a storyteller. Consider him remebered.

1 comment:

Michele R. Strub said...

One of my favorites that Thomas used to say, regarding the less-than-mature, "they've still got milk-scent on their breath" -- classic Dad --

--appreciating this post; two anniversary of my mother's passing just last week...