Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reflecting on Life While Dressing for a Funeral

A fellow Beach Cities Health District volunteer has died and the services are set for 11:30 a.m. today at the Inglewood Park cemetery. Therewas no obituary so I don't know if it will be in a chapel on the grounds or literally graveside.

Funerals have changed a great deal in just the last five years. More often than not, they are a "Celebration of Life!" which is very nice even though no one seems to want to be the first speaker at one. Not knowing what to expect (no obit) means: What to wear?

In olden days, one had a black outfit hanging in the closet, ready to go (summer and winter weights, thank you very much.) The last formal funeral I went to was my father-in-law's (full Catholic mass, procession to the grave, graveside send-off.) Conversely "all black" at a Celebration of Life! pretty much indicates you got it all wrong...

Without Miss Manners' counsel on what to wear to a morning funeral, I think black loafers, pants and blazer; long-sleeved white shirt are going to have to suffice. My volunteer ID badge can provide any necessary color and explain who I am.

It's not about me, but being there represents the organization since I only knew her from it. I can hear the usual hisses, "What was she thinking?!" plenty of other places. It is only respectful to dress properly.

I was online, looking for directions to the cemetery, and up came FindAGrave.com which lists famous burial sites. She will be in interesting company -- two of the O.J. Simpson lawyers - Robert Kardashian and Johnny Cochrane, Jr.; former LA Mayor Tom Bradley, Sugar Ray Robinson, Cesa Romero, T-Bone Walker, Ella Fitzgerald, Hoot Gibson, Betty Grable, Gypsy Rose Lee and Paul Bern (Jean Harlow's husband briefly.)

Naturally, it's a grey, overcast day. Should make for a positively Dickensian atmosphere.

* * *
The sun finally did come out, but the main service was held indoors. We were late (we didn't know that one of the main roads there was all torn up) and when I read the program, I was glad -- we missed someone singing "Over the Rainbow" which I do not doubt dissolved everyone there into wads of wet Kleenex.)

She had a good-sized crowd; we weren't the only ones who had to stand in the ante room (but I was the only one dressed like a waiter.)

The service blended traditional with celebration-of-life. A Baptist minister led a prayer and read the Scripture, remarks from the audience were limited to two minutes per person and it ended with a prayer. Guests were then urged to their cars for the graveside service.

Beach Cities Health District was well represented with about six of us present.

That Jerry drove the land speed racing car her husband and son built at over 200 mph was mentioned several times. She enjoyed reading, gardening and volunteered in several programs for the elderly and children. Above all, Jerry was a great lady; she had the gift of making everyone in the room feel right at home.

She was born 11/6/1937 and died 5/20/09. I would have sworn she was only 62... No cause of death was mentioned, but a guest told me "lung cancer." Given what I know of her character, I would have bet that she eschewed futile efforts to prolong life. After reading the poem in the eulogy, I believe it. Selected lines: "This isn't death - it's glory!" ... "This is the end of pleading for strength to bear my pain; not even pain's dark memory will ever live again." (by Martha Nicholson) Godspeed, Jerry.

We repaired to the Proud Bird (previously reviewed) had a Bloody Mary and ate our way through the buffet. (Very good lobster ravioli, pork loin -- and desserts.) You need to keep up your strength after a funeral ...and no one else is going to do it for you.

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