Funerals are nearly universally dreaded, at least in modern, middle-class, secular American culture. We do not look to them to provide true community and comfort. They are formal, sometimes sterile events that we check off our to-do lists, after we drag out that one black dress we own, or that one black suit along with that one tie.
Celebrations of life are becoming a norm. We wear what we believe the person we lost would love to see us in: their favorite color, the souvenir sweatshirts we bought together on that trip, the tie-die they wore daily, motorcycle gear; garments that say we belonged to the same tribe, the same family, the same club.
Marilyn wanted a celebration of life. She had made this clear to everyone who might listen. She planned to be cremated, and wanted her survivors to throw a big party.
Yet in Franny’s memory, the event was always labeled “The Funeral.” It did not take place at a funeral home. It was held in the same garden in which Marilyn and Douglas had celebrated their wedding, just the blink of an eye ago.
The wedding that had occurred in order to provide a safety net of health care access, legalized by their union. As it turned out, the universe had other plans.
Perhaps that’s why Franny’s memory insisted on calling it The Funeral. As a kind of sad, morose book end to The Wedding. There was that movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral. Their lives that summer had been The Wedding, The Kiss, The Accident, and The Funeral.
These events had tied them together, and driven them apart, Franny and Leo and Kassandra and Allison, and Douglas.
And Marilyn. Her exit had significantly destabilized their little tribe, even as the bicycle accident had brought Kassandra closer to them. And Allison’s house became closer to the center of their world, with Leo moving in.
Swirling layers of new and old, grief and loss, joy and acquisition.
Is that life, always? Franny pondered, as she and Precious followed Leo into Marilyn’s old house. Are the stable, calm, predictable moments the rare ones, the ones we should cherish the most, the ones that will disappear like a leaf on the wind?
Or do we welcome and embrace the destabilization, the churning of the earth of our lives, so that new seeds can see the light of the sun?