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Reflections on Two Funerals

Two friends who are no longer with us.

I had the sad, but distinct, honor of attending two funerals on the same day this cloudy, dreary, rainy Monday, one in the morning, the other in the evening. Two friends, one a gentlelady of 64 who worked at a car dealership with children and grandchildren and one a gentleman of 54 who was a lawyer with no children. Both passed away on the same day last week due to two different kinds of cancer. Neither of them wanted to go, but cancer won the day. May they rest in peace and their family and friends remember them for the nice people they were.

What I noticed was the 180 degree difference in the services, one very traditional and one not. Simply put, just two different ways to accomplish the same sad task, remembering friends.

I went to the first funeral with a friend as none of my family really knew the gentlelady and her family, although I did. The gentlelady had a traditional Catholic mass in a large church with massive ceilings in Perry Hall. The hundred or so family and friends at the church were mostly dressed in dark dresses and black suits. The church with its massive wooden benches that hold a thousand people. Sculptures of Jesus Christ adorned the walls. Ornate glass on the windows. Large gold candles everywhere. The four person choir and the organist played and sang many songs for the gathering. Pallbearers accompanied the wooden casket. The priest did all of the duties normally seen at a Catholic funeral. Many readings from the Bible by the priest and family. An eloquent eulogy by her son-in-law. Tears and tissues were seen everywhere. This was the saddest day for most of the folks there in quite awhile including me.

Many made the trip up the long hill to the gravesite in the rain by foot and some took cars. The black hearst and accompanying limousine. The pallbearers struggled somewhat bringing the wooden casket to the gravesite. The priest performed the final services under the tent as the gentle rain continued to fall. We all left with most going to a local restaurant to meet with the family and friends.

Five hours later, I attended the second funeral with my wife and children as we all knew the gentleman and his family and had attended many family functions with them in the past. The funeral service was held in a small funeral home in Havre de Grace. As I parked on the street near the funeral home I couldn't help but notice the yellow "funeral parking" signs along the curb reserving spaces for mourners. A well dressed employee stood in the middle of the street directing cars as to where to park.

What a change from my earlier experience in the day when I went inside. The small funeral home with eight foot ceilings. A small room with 40 folding chairs in rows. Thirty men, women and children inside. Flowers in the front of the room with a small wooden box containing the gentleman's ashes. The only people wearing formal dress were the employees. The attire was completely casual as the gentleman would have wanted it. A couple of men with long pony tails and one with a mohawk. Two frames with dozens of family pictures were on display. A monitor was scrolling family pictures of the dead gentleman from since his early childhood.

No pastor, priest, or minister of any kind in sight, just family and friends. The gentleman wanted a non-religious memorial service where his family and friends spoke and remembered the good times and bad times, that simple, nothing more. Three brothers, his sister, his wife, his father-in-law and friends spoke fondly about him for an hour. Then it was over. We all went our own ways.

No judgements here, just a tale of two funerals, both way too early. The day just reminds me to enjoy it while you are here, the end always comes too soon.

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VWK June 19, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Great reminder. Our family rule is to never leave the house without saying I Love You - you just never know.
John Doe June 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Thanks, Paul, for sharing in vivid detail. It made me think of my Mom, a cancer victim herself, and reminded me to "make the days count."
SamReprogel June 21, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Pretty thoughtful piece Paul, thanks.
Paul Amirault June 21, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Thanks Sam, hope all is well with you and that now "old" baseball player from awhile ago.
SamReprogel June 22, 2012 at 12:05 AM
He's here now, he sends his thanks for being a part of his life; as I do.
Paul Amirault June 22, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Most generously welcome, they all have no idea how much I enjoyed those days trying to teach baseball.
SamReprogel June 22, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Ryan said you didn't try; you did. Whether they tell you or not, they know and you should know and hope you can feel........the time you devoted, was time well spent and your passion for it was obvious. I hope you have the same good feeling I have when you run into a "now a man" kid, who you coached at some point in the last 20 or so year and who you really don't recognize anymore, walks up to you and says "Hi Mr. Paul" and you go crazy trying to figure out who it is. At the end of the day, it's a good thing; they remember you for a reason.
Paul Amirault June 22, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Well said, thank you and Ryan.

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