I am sitting on the 2nd row pew in the small funeral parlor chapel. The organist with her beehive hair and three layers of make-up is pounding out a version of When We All Get To Heaven, but it wasn’t the buoyant version I remembered as a kid. Beehive organist’s version sounds more like Air Supply doing a rendition of Metallica’s Enter Sandman, or you could imagine any number of rock/pop songs that have been redone by country artists, either way you get my drift. I also find myself questioning, what if this person isn’t in Heaven. I have yet to attend a funeral of someone who went to Hell, or if they did go to Hell none of us sitting in the funeral service knew they had. Come to think of it, I’ve been to some funerals where I knew the person was a low down piece of shit, but from the things the preacher said I wondered if the preacher really knew the person or if I were at the wrong person’s funeral.
As Beehive begins the 2nd verse, the acolytes of the funeral home in their J. Ferrar black suits roll the coffin into the chapel. The smell of lilacs and gardenias fills the air. This aroma is suffocating because every other elderly woman in the chapel is wearing a perfume that smells exactly the same. As a woman you can know that you are officially old when your perfume smells like a floral arrangement used for funerals. That is the scent of death.
I am sitting on that 2nd row pew and I honestly have no idea who it is that is in that casket. Oh I know the name and relation, but I don’t know the person. Whoever it is in that casket is or was a family member. Honestly, I’m not sure if I am supposed to say “is” or “was,” either way they were kin. Still, I have no idea who it is. In fact, I have no idea if the person were male or female. Their name was one of those names that could go either way, which makes me wonder if they went either way. I know, sick thought, but at least I’m honest.
Before we were escorted to the chapel for the service, I tried to listen for clues from conversations to try to figure out who this person was that had just been rolled in front of us in the chapel. As I was listening for clues, I realized something. The majority of people at the service were talking about what they had done earlier in the day, what they were going to do later today, and what they needed to be doing right now. One elderly lady was talking about the cakes that she needed to bake because her church was having a dinner, and the church would be sorely disappointed if she didn’t bring a couple of her cakes. An elderly man spoke of getting home in time to get some yard work finished. I even heard conversations among some immediate family members about what time the earliest showing of one of the latest movies would be after the funeral.
As I sit here on the 2nd row pew in this small funeral parlor chapel, Beehive has finished playing When We All Get To Heaven and I realize more than ever that death is a major inconvenience for the living.