While I'm finishing up the grant I thought you might enjoy some oldies but goodies...my Funerals in the South series...I had SO MUCH fun writing these and they are among my favorites. TODAY FOR OUR READING PLEASURE...Part I, Funerals and Clown Makeup
I went to a funeral this morning for the parent of a coworker and it got me to thinking. While I’ve traveled quite a bit in my lifetime, I’ve always lived within a 100 mile radius of where I was born. It’s my little bubble and I like it. Having said this, you can understand why I don’t have anything other than a “southern belle bubble” perspective on funerals.
Southern belles are raised to deal with death in a very unique way. We have at least one funeral outfit in the closet at all times. When arranging a funeral, it is important to have someone with a sense of style in charge. Consequently, after the initial shock wears off (you get about an hour and a half) the southern belle has to WILL herself into Funeral Hostess mode. There will be plenty of time to mourn later on. In my neck of the woods, a funeral is a macabre sort of social event and there are rules! People are going to judge…they are going to talk…they are going to compare your “style” with every other funeral that they can recall. The house has to be immaculate…the best china and crystal ready for use and the silver polished. While the belle is at the funeral home and florist, neighbors, co-workers and church friends will swoop in. In addition to bringing food and drink and ice and flowers, they’ll cut your grass, wash and iron your clothes, clean your kitchen, vacuum and sweep your floors, feed your children, and walk your dog. When you get back they’ll try to make you eat, take a Valium, and lie down for a few minutes. They know you won’t do any of these things, except maybe take the Valium, but they’re going to keep trying. You’ll return the favor eventually.
Choosing a casket in which to place a loved for all eternity is tricky business. I’m partial to wood, but some members of my family prefer the classic gray metal version. Of course, there is quite a variety of themed caskets available these days…college mascots, hunting/camouflage, and so forth. Likewise, choosing what your loved one is going to WEAR for all eternity takes some thought. While Mrs. Ray Don Dickson did not purchase the hunting themed casket, when Mr. Ray Don Dickson went to his great reward, she had him dressed in his hunting clothes. She did not have a southern belle at her disposal to assist and YES, people talked about her TERRIBLE but I reckon it wasn’t anybody’s business but hers. My 101 year old grandmother was dressed in a simple peach colored Vanity Fair nylon nightgown and robe with little embroidered flowers on it.
My family has used the same funeral home forever…they’ve buried every member of my daddy’s family, including my daddy (wooden casket/wore a suit). They know what we expect and have never let us down. When my daddy’s sister died (wooden casket/favorite red suit), there was no way I was allowing an open casket. I was in charge and she didn't look anything like she did before she'd moved to the nursing home a few years prior. I have no doubt that she would have haunted me until I lost my mind if I’d let the general public see her like that. Thomas, the funeral director, didn’t budge when people inquired about viewing…”be here at 6:00 pm and Belle will probably let you take a little peek before everybody else arrives for the visitation” is what he was directed to say. Nobody argued and the few close friends and family members who needed the closure were there at 6:00 pm. and we closed her back up at 6:15...taking me on when I’m in Funeral Hostess Mode isn’t wise. One thing you do need to watch out for at a southern funeral parlor…they have a tendency to miss the boat with the hair and makeup. As my friend Anita said recently when her father passed away, “I’ve got to get over to the funeral home to be sure everything looks alright…I’m scared they might have put clown makeup on Daddy.”
to be continued….next time funeral locations and funeral food