. . . that the family all wears white. Some of the suits were kind of cool, like the little seventh grader's, who was the only person in attendance who I knew, while others were more of the pimp-daddy variety. I was picturing a wake situation, where I come in, say who I am, I'm sorry for their loss, shake a few hands, fake like I know how to give a prayer, and be on my way. Instead, everyone was seated, the family was all spread out, so I was standing on the side waiting for a window when a good amount of family members were by the casket. It was then that a woman approached me and asked me to be seated because they would be "beginning" soon. I told her I was all right, but she still yelled at one of the white-suited youths to fetch some more chairs. I remained standing, looking for that window, when the same woman approached me, motioned for me to follow her, and sat me in one of the chairs lined up along the aisles. I'm very pleased to know that this many people came to honor her, but I'd be lying if I said that the aisle seat didn't make me, being the only white guy there, stand out even more.
The aforementioned seventh-grader is one of my students. He lost his mother, who is really his aunt, but she's been raising him as his legal guardian since he was eight months old. I gave him a hug when I saw him, and he asked me if Miss So-And-So "and all them" were there. I said I hadn't seen them, but that I'd keep an eye out for them. I actually could say with certainty that they weren't there, because I would have seen them due to their whiteness. I just didn't have the heart to tell him, nor did I think it appropriate to point out just how easy it would have been for him to tell if they were in attendance.
A preacher dude, who was one helluva public speaker, came out to give the introduction, getting it off to a most rocking start, with the organist and drummer punctuating certain key phrases with bombastic flourishes. I really didn't know much about this kid's mother, and I wouldn't really know much more about her until four or five rocking songs into the night. With the funk based guitar and danceable beat, I'd liken this overqualified church band to hey-day, George Clinton's Funkadelic, the more rock oriented counterpart to his more famous Parliament. One particularly rousing number had the melody of Wilson Picket's Land of 1,000 dances with the Na-Na-Na's replaced with "I got a prayer" over-and-over. It was slammin'. Moments later, three of the deceased's sisters got up to the stage to say a few words, but before long they were breaking into song, which I thought odd at first, but then I just couldn't help but be amazed that they were singing it a cappella and very well.
As strange as it sounds to tell you, this funeral was right up my alley, but even with a band as tight as Funkadelic and a pastor as excitable as James Brown was in the church scene of The Blues Brothers*, I still didn't feel compelled to dance down the aisles like some of the folks there. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that they are in the wrong for handling the affair in any way they see fit. Hell, if a toga party helps people get through a tough time, I say pull off those bed sheets, turn on Louie Louie by The Kingsmen, and grab a hold of a bottle of Jack. It's just that I'm not used to that type of funeral, and I didn't feel it right for the rogue white guy no one knew to dance up and down the aisles. Plus, although I did crack a smile a few times watching little kids dance, I was really, really bummed about this poor kid losing his mom. However, as I bobbed my head and allowed the music and the vibes of the room to soak in, I began to feel really, really good, somehow. I may find myself on the west side of Chicago next Sunday for a 5:00 mass. Fuck it.
Maybe all the stuffy white funerals I've been to over the years have it all wrong. Maybe the next funeral I go to I'll put on a pimp suit and turn that mutha' out. Maybe not, but after this experience, I'll certainly be more open to new and interesting ways to approaching the grieving process.
What's the most interesting funeral you've ever been to, be it as a result of the culture of the family or just one that was noteworthy in general.
*As I watched the sermon at the church, I couldn't help but think of that scene in Blues Brothers, and it occurred to me that it really wasn't that far off from the real thing, only without the people doing flips.