Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Location, Location, Location

Grant almost done...Please enjoy this repeat of Part II of the Funerals in the South Series...

Thanks for the fabulous comments on part one of what I'm now calling my "funerals in the south" series! Keep them coming...

Let's see...funeral locations. There is quite a bit if disagreement in my family on this point. My uncle was a funeral director and a member of the First Baptist Church. The First Baptist Church in my hometown has very steep steps, probably 25 of them, and my uncle told everybody that he did NOT want his funeral in the church because he had carried many a casket up those steps and he always worried that the tops of their heads were being bumped against the end of the casket when they had to tilt it to get it up THOSE steps and he did NOT want HIS head bumping against the end of the casket. (Editorial note: Hank told me to add this...he was a pallbearer at Miss Margaret's funeral at the First Baptist Church and says that the least of his worries was hitting her head. The steps were so hard to maneuver that he was afraid they were going to lose their grip and send her sailing down over the parking lot and through the front window of the auto parts store across the street.)

My uncle (perhaps justified) was so adamant, that over the years the "THOSE steps" prejudice against the First Baptist Church translated into some kind of funeral service boycott against the Methodist Church also, even though it only has about five steps. My daddy and his sister LOVED the Methodist Church...they'd sat in the same seats in the choir loft their entire adult lives. When daddy died, I really thought that we should have his service in the church. There was more space and his was sure to be a "standing room only" service, not to mention that there was a better organ and beautiful Steinway grand piano. Well, my mother would not HEAR of it. "We don't have our funerals in the church...we have our funerals at the chapel at the funeral home."

Years later when Daddy's sister passed away, I decided to put my foot down. We were having her funeral in the Methodist Church and nobody was talking me out of it. When we arrived at my mother's house after making the arrangements, I told Hank that I was counting on him to support me on this mother was NOT going to bully me this wasn't her concern...I was in charge. She didn't even like her sister-in-law all that much! I marched in her back door with Hank right behind me and told mother what was what. "You will NOT have that funeral in the church, " she said sternly. "Oh yes we WILL," I replied, turning around to look at Hank. "Well....," he said, not making eye contact. "Over my dead body will that funeral be in the church," she said in a louder voice. Since it didn't seem practical to kill her and Hank was NO help at all, we found ourselves right back in the funeral home chapel.

There is also the graveside service option and the cremation/memorial service option. When my neighbor's dad passed away, they threw a new twist on things. They did the cremation/ memorial service, put the urn on the shelf for a couple of months, then go to Arlington National Cemetery and have a military honors service and bury the urn option. All of this to say, the southern belle doesn't have any hard and fast rules about the location of the service...(but she prefers the in the church with lots of uplifting music option).

I would be remiss in not mentioning proper protocol for traveling from the church (or funeral chapel as the case may be) to the cemetery. The family should NEVER EVER get out of the cars until the loved one is in place and the service ready to begin. It's just not done. At my grandmother's burial, my cousin and his family messed up the whole thing by jumping out of their car too quickly. NOW he knows...

I think I'm going to tackle cemeteries and save funeral food for later. Burial grounds in the south can take on all forms as I'm sure they probably do in other regions. There are family cemeteries, church cemeteries, town cemeteries, and commercial for profit cemeteries. I suppose the cemetery you choose is incumbent upon where you live and maybe where your loved ones chose to go before you. My father-in-law, whose funeral service was just about as near to perfect as I have EVER experienced, is buried in one of the tackiest gosh awful cemeteries I've ever seen. He purchased the plot himself so that was what he wanted but OH MY STARS. People put flowers (both live and plastic) out and never remove them, along with all sorts of paraphernalia...perhaps I'm being harsh, but garden gnomes just don't work for me in a cemetery.

One little church had to get an injunction against one overly enthusiastic son who put so much junk around his mother's resting place that it started to resemble...well, I don't quite know what it resembled...nobody'd ever seen anything like it in a cemetery. Here's the southern belle cemetery rule....LESS IS MORE! Nobody likes a tacky neighbor.


  1. The cemetery right next to our church (although it's the Episcopalian's cemetery, not ours) is the final resting place of JonBenet, so they seriously still take piles of stuff out of there every week. It's a gorgeous old cemetery with beautiful monuments, so I'm glad somebody is getting rid of all that stuff.

    Makes me wish I was an Episcopalian. I think we have to settle for the big cemetery across from the high school.

  2. If you have not read the book Being Dead Is No Excuse, I highly recommend it! It is HILARIOUS!!! And I totally "get"' everything you've written about. Must be a "Southern" thing!

  3. wait until you get to a Chinese Funeral service and cemetery, then I think you'll see how "creative" if not tacky they are - not the chinese of course- you know what I mean! :)

  4. These are the best, funniest, but oh so accurate posts ever! I swear, darlin', you should submit these to some publication. Or - publish your own Guide to Southern Living -oops! I mean Dying. . . Please mention at some point the local politicians who go to the funeral home every day so they can work the crowd in prep for the next election - That is more 'small-town Southern, I think' :)

  5. Oh girl, you're telling it like it really is!


  6. Oh, how I love this series. Well done.

    I'm particularly looking forward to the funeral food feature. You all absolutely knock that aspect of funerals out of the ballpark! I'll bring the deviled egg dish (which I believe is a staple?) if you'll bring the recipes . . .

  7. Yep, reality at it's best. We don't like to think about death and funerals but sooner or later we are all faced with those decisions. Enjoying these posts albeit the subject is so sad. Did you see that hilarious movie
    "Death at a Funeral"?

    BTW loving your low country Christmas tree...the decorations are so beautiful and indicative of the Low Country. Are you in South Carolina?

  8. Great set of posts. I've never really thought about my own funeral, but at 51, I suppose I ought to someday.

    The Missus and I both want to be cremated with our ashes scattered of the shores of south Maui. I just hope I don't get lost on the way.

    Funeral food? I can hardly wait.

    Oh, and I love the old Christmas pictures down there. I have to dig out a few of mine someday.

  9. I loooove your blog. Our blog names are similar so we're destined to be friends! Come check me out too, I just started but I'm already addicted! Merry Christmas!

  10. I loooove your blog. Our blog names are similar so we're destined to be friends! Come check me out too, I just started but I'm already addicted! Merry Christmas!

  11. This is just too funny! You are right - no one likes a tacky neighbor. Imagine being stuck next to one forever!

  12. I loved reading your blog. Very funny.

  13. There is nothing like a southern funeral for good eats. We can put on a dead spread now can't we. My problem with funerals lies with the open casket and people who insist that the dead person looks good. I'm sorry, no they don't.

    I think I want a roast for my funeral. People will have to stand up and say something funny about me. And the last person gets to say..And speaking of roasts, the crematorium just called......

  14. Garden gnomes! Oh my!

    I've never laughed so much about funerals in my life ")

  15. LOL that last line is cracking me up. I never thought about the "neighborhood" at a cemetary!


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