Death of a Fisherman
A couple of years ago, my neighbor (I'll call her "Mary") called to let me know that her father had died. Mary invited me to the funeral, a graveside service in Hapeville. Of course Mary was the only person there that I knew-- I didn't even know the man we were burying that day. I met Mary's cousin, Cookie, at the grave site. She had secured a nice seat in the front row, under the tent and out of the sun. I'd never thought about it before, but I wondered "Is it really appropriate to be smoking so close to a casket?". I guess Cookie thought it was okay, as she smoked her Marlboro red and basked in the glow over the fact that she had the best seat in the house!
It was almost time for the service to begin. The family started taking their seats under the tent. The greiving widow sat next to her daughter who sat next to Cookie on the front row. I was relieved to see that Cookie did have the good sense to stomp out her cigarette just as the preacher began the service. I stood on the sidelines, watching the service- more of an observer than a participant- the whole time thinking "Why am I here?".
The service was going along nicely. The preacher made some parables about the deceased. He loved to fish and he loved to spread God's word. He was a good man and he used God's love as bait. It was very sweet. We were asked to bow our heads and recite the Lord's Prayer. As soon as everyone had their heads bowed and their eyes closed, I saw Cookie lean over to retreive her purse from the ground. I was intrigued- is she going to pull out a Kleenex or something? Did the prayer move her to tears? Knowing Cookie, she might even pull out a Budweiser or something! Her hand fumbled around inside the purse as she prayed "Our Father, who art in heaven..." (fumble, fmble, fumble), "hallowed be Thy name...". She didn't let me down- she pulled her hand out and she had the pack of Marlboro reds and a lighter! Oh my God- she's not going to light up during the prayer is she?!?!?!? "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done..." (insert the sound of a Zippo lighter) "On Earth as it is in Heaven". I have just witnessed the biggest example of white trash that I think I will ever see! "Amen" was followed by a big puff of smoke from the front row. The mournors all raised their heads, opened their eyes and looked at Cookie in disbelief.
OK, now it was time for the audience-participation portion of this funeral. The preacher asked those in attendance to share memories of the deceased with the group. His request was met with complete silence. I started to think that maybe I wasn't the only one there that didn't know the man. Surely someone had something good to say about the man in the coffin. The silence was very uncomrtable and it grew and grew. We spent about 5 minutes in silence-- people looked at each other and nodded as if to say "he was a good man and that's understood- no words needed". But the preacher wasn't going to let us off the hook until somebody said something. Cookie looked down at her watch - maybe she had somewhere else to be. She decided to call the preacher's bluff and get this show on the road. She stood up and walked a couple of steps and turned around to face the audience- standing in front of the coffin- a cigarette in one hand, a Kleenex in the other. She took a looong drag and threw the cigarette on the ground (about a foot away from the freshly dug grave) . She stomped it out and kicked the butt underneath one of the flower arrangements. She dried her eyes and composed herself. I was waiting with baited breath- what will she say? What deep revelation will she reveal about the dead fisherman that laid in the casket behind her? Then she did it- she summed up the man's life in one sentence "He loved to fish!". That was it- just "he loved to fish". Cookie held the Kleenex to her nose as she walked back to her seat and sat down. The preacher asked us again if anyone had memories they wanted to share. Again it was met with silence. Finally he asked the greiving widow if she had anything she wanted to share about her husband. Through tears she said- "He did like to fish". I guess that summed it all up. The service ended and everyone was invited back to Mary's house for a meal.