Monday, December 5, 2011


My mother's best friend's father died the day before Thanksgiving. Today was his funeral.

I didn't know this man. I had maybe met him once when I was a child, too young to remember the encounter, but I found myself at his signing off all the same.

I was there for the family, with whom I am an honorary member. I grew up with the cousins, call my mother's best friend, along with her brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles. I see them at holidays. They came to my college graduation. In most ways I am closer to them than my own blood relations.

Though I did not know him, I saw this man's influence in the crowd of faces who sat, quietly crying, remembering their father, grandfather, or great grandfather. He lived to the bright young age of 93. We should all be so lucky.

As the family processed in, I found myself slipping my hand into my mother's palm. Being witness to the ceremony of saying goodbye to a loved one makes you appreciate even more those you still have.

This was a black funeral, which meant a few things were going to happen.

1- Singing. There were plenty of gospel songs, including His Eye Is On The Sparrow, which is basically a cliche occurrence at black funerals.

2- At least one, if not two, preachers/pastors/reverends were going to speak. There were lots of mentions of God, Christ, Jesus, the Savior, the Redeemer, etc.

3- Are you saved? Everyone needs to be saved. Do you have a church home? The only way to get to heaven is through Christ... You get the drift. As one who questions her beliefs on spirituality and religion on an almost daily basis, I sat patiently waiting.

Thankfully, the Pastor who gave the Eulogy, before he spun into his speech on number three, elicited a few chuckles from the attendees. He explained his job was to lift us up, and he seemed to do that quite well, as well as move the proceedings along at a relatively brisk pace.

As experiences go, it could've been worse.

I hadn't been to a funeral since the death of Ella, my cousin who was more like my third parent, a few years ago. They read the same poem that I had to read after I finished her obituary: I'm Free. Seeing those words in the program made me tear up a bit.

Funerals are for the living, remembering the dead and saying goodbye. As one who had no particular attachment to this man, but a deep love for his family, I hoped the day gave them some peace.

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