Two indisputable standards of Southern funerals are food and flowers. There was hardly any of either. The lack of flowers were because we made an "in lieu of" announcement for a couple of local charities, but as far as I'm concerned there was no excuse for the food. The other families at the funeral home had tables laden with food and at least sixty floral arrangements apiece, and there we were, shoved in the smallest room, as if to say "Everyone thought she was dead already." Which I suppose she kinda was, but I wanted to run through the halls screaming "THIS WAS MY GRANDMOTHER AND SHE WAS IMPORTANT."
The one thing that was right... well, I'm always the smartass sitting at the back in funerals going "they don't look asleep, they look DEAD," and reading The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford last year has made me extremely cynical about the funeral industry, but the morticians did a lovely job with my grandmother. She looked like she did ten years ago, when she was still herself, and that's how I want to remember her.
Apparently the new "thing" for funerals in Pulaski is to send ceramic cherubs. We got ten and a church. One or two might have been okay, but ten was cause for sneaking out back and making a call to atomicnumber51. ("I figure if everyone else gets to go outside for a smoke break, I should get to call you.") The man in the next room had twenty, a church, and a three-foot-tall lighthouse.
I believe I have mentioned my uncle Dale before, but I will do so again just in case you missed it. Dale is my mother's older brother. He is a Southern Baptist preacher. In my opinion, he is also a grade-A crock of shit and a person I'm embarrassed to admit I share genes with. Despite my grandmother's adoration of him as the oldest surviving child and the only surviving son, he totally abdicated any responsibility for his declining mother, content to let my mom do all the stressful, unpleasant, and totally heartbreaking caretaking. Mom was at Granny's side every weekend at the beginning and at the nursing home every day at the end, but Dale had more "important" things to do. Rumor has it he's already promised my grandmother's house to friends of his, without discussing this with my mother of course. My father, no caretaker himself, has done more to help out than Dale has. (And proving that preacher's kids are hellraisers, two of his three kids are currently in trouble with the law for allegedly selling stolen car parts on EBay. None of them have ever heard of birth control. Basically, Dale makes my dad's side of the family -- the side that's prone to depression, alcoholism, and being right bastards just because we can (i.e., the part-Irish side) -- look downright respectable.)
The funeral started with Dale leaping up to the microphone to thank everyone. I later found out this was his way of attempting to avoid having to write thank-you notes. He immediately found a way to make reference to Dubya's Columbia speech. Okay. Let's put aside my disgust with the man, my mother's disgust (which my uncle is well aware of). Those don't matter. What matters is my grandmother hated Reagan and she also hated Bush Sr., and I fully believe she would have hated the Shrub even more. She would have been pissed to say the least.
Then there was some music. Instead of a nice organist or pianist, Dale got some gosh-awful recordings of white-bread gospel. Probably someone from his church recorded them. My grandmother deserved real music.
Then the preacher began the service. I don't know the preacher. He's apparently the last preacher my grandmother had, and I doubt he knew her at all. He started with some vagaries about what a nice lady Sallye was, which could have been said about anyone, especially since my grandmother didn't waste time with being a lady when she could get something done a lot quicker her way. Then he announced that he could say a lot of nice things about Sister Sallye, but Sister Sallye was so devout that she would have wanted him to preach to the living instead of the dead. He then launched into an old-style Southern Baptist altar call that lasted about twenty minutes. I realize that this is standard operating procedure, but it's still tacky and was no sort of consolation to me, and I'm even a Christian. I needed to hear nice memories of my grandmother.
But that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that this preacher basically directed the sermon to one person: Brother Dale. Brother Dale this and Brother Dale that. Brother-Dale-I-know-what-you're-going-th
Brother Dale sat on the other end of the pew yelling "Amen" every thirty seconds to make sure everyone knew that he's a preacher.
I occupied myself by wondering if there was a God, trying to decide which of the ceramic cherubs I could do the most damage to Dale's head with, and using every ounce of will I had to keep from making a scene. Really, I wish that I'd had the strength to make a scene. It would have cemented my reputation as Crazy Cousin Kelly (which is actually a good thing), but it would have been worth it to show those Pharisees for what they are. But my mother never would have forgiven me. I had to make to with figuring that the Jesus I believe in, the Jesus who threw the merchants out of the Temple, would have agreed with me that this was total garbage.
Of course, I'm the biggest hypocrite of all. Afterwards I hugged Dale and when he said "I love you," I said "me too."
I've discovered in the past few days that getting angry is a whole lot easier than actually dealing with anything.