Nana’s Funeral

I rode to Scituate, Massachusetts in a fifteen passenger van filled with six children, two siblings, a wife, a mother, a brother-in-law, and myself.  The heat was either on, or off, so we drove most of the way with the heat on and various windows being opened and closed.  The radio display was broken, so we never knew what station we were listening to, and as usual, we were late.

I had told my father that I would be at the funeral home at 2, because I was singing and I needed to warm up.  My sister, whose van we were in, said that we should be getting there at 2:30, because no one was going to be there until then.  I called my father’s cell phone and he told me 2:15.  We arrived at 2:45.

No one had their funeral clothes on yet, so it was a mad dash into the restrooms to change before the service started at 3 pm.  My father was in the hallway, concerned that so many people had turned out.  He was told that something like ten people would be showing up, and that the service was going to be very informal.  The place was packed, and every seat was filled, so now he didn’t know what he was going to do.

I started the funeral by singing “My Lord What a Morning,” a cappella (there was no piano), and it was terrible.  At least by my standards.  People who have heard me sing it before (wife, mother, etc.) patted me on the back and said “Well, you didn’t get a chance to warm up.”  Luckily, everyone else loved it, but I still felt bad about it.  I got into this business to perform for people, but now it seems I am performing more for myself.  Whether that is good, bad, or in-between is the subject for another day.

My father got up when I was done, and started to speak.  For a moment, I was worried.  He didn’t have much of a plan, and now was being asked to perform a funeral service for his grandmother, kind of last minute.  Then I thought, but he is a pastor.  He does funerals all the time.  I’m sure he will be fine.  He knows what he is doing.  And for a time, he did.  He read Bible verses and told stories about Nana.  He managed to speak for about 20 minutes.  I think the ending was what got him.

He started looking at his watch a lot, and seemed a little nervous.  He had us all recite the 23rd Psalm together.  He said a prayer.  Finally, he just stepped down.  For a moment, nobody moved.  I think we were waiting for my grandfather, as closest relative to the deceased, to get up first.  He didn’t, so everyone just sat there.  After a minute or two he called my father over and said something to him quietly.  My father said “Everyone?!” and then leaned down to hear again.  “Ok,” he said in disbelief, “everybody is invited back to the Masonic Temple for a reception.”  My father left the room, and once again everyone just sat in silence.  When some people in the back started to get up, I decided that it was time to leave, and I got the family up and we left.  My grandfather remained seated in the front row until everyone was gone.

I think the strangest thing about the funeral was that no one was really sad.  My great-grandmother lived to be 104 years old.  The general consensus seemed to be, “Wow, good for her,” rather than somber mourning.  I think my father put it best when he said that she lived a long and healthy life.  She had her mind and body all the way to the end, and she died in her sleep, just like she wanted.  No pain, for her or her family.  I don’t know if we all knew what to do at a funeral for someone like that, but we got to say goodbye, and I will always remember her more for the way she lived, than for our service after she died.

Posted in Funeral, Nana.

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