"Sadness is but a wall between two gardens." ~ Kahlil Gibran
|My mother hates this picture of me.|
I hate funeral homes. I can’t stand the smell, the décor, the formal attire, the strategically placed tissues, the easels which hold portraits, the drapes, the guest books, the compartmentalized rooms, the air conditioning, the color palette, or (typically) those who greet families and friends.
There is a fine line between the macabre that brings me joy and actual death, especially when the loved one is young and good and should have lived. I have been crying; mourning the loss of an old friend. I actually think the Victorian mourning rituals make more sense than some of our contemporary ones. Dressing a certain way, excluding oneself from social events for a certain period of time... perfectly acceptable to me. This isn’t a post about unfairness of death or customs, this is a post about loathing funeral homes because on Sunday, I’ll be returning to one. And by returning, I’ll note that there are apparently so few funeral homes in the Greater Richmond area that I have dark memories about several… but then, I did bury more friends during my high school years than most bury in their youth… or in their adult lives. My fella hasn’t yet buried a friend. He has buried relatives. He worries about it sometimes. Now 40, burying a friend should be old hat but it never is. Death is sad for the living. We feel loss. There is a distinct difference between burying one’s relatives of a certain age as an adult and being a 15-year-old viewing the guy who used to sit behind you in Business class and poke you in the back citing Echo & The Bunnymen lyrics from one’s t-shirt. It is very different to hold your best friend’s hand, a friend you’ve known since before preschool, at this boy’s funeral and then within a few months bury said best friend who now has put a bullet through his own head even after promising you he would always hold your hand… but who can blame him. He wasn’t even 18. Now repeat this scenario with different pronouns four more times with car accidents instead of suicide and this pretty much sums up my high school extracurricular activities. I was thinking today that if we had had Facebook check-in’s, I would have been tagged in nearly a dozen funeral homes. I would have given them 0 stars in their ratings too… but mostly because I was a snarky teen. After high school, I thought it was over... but then my close friend who was more like a sister (since we attended each other's family vacations annually, and celebrated our birthdays together since they were only two weeks apart) drowned in a boating accident. We were not yet 30.
I never mind the standing out in an open cemetery rain or shine. It’s the funeral homes that feel artificial. I even read Caleb Wilde’s Confessions of a Funeral Director, but I do not like funeral homes.
A few years ago, a friend jokingly gave me Demeter’s fragrance, Funeral Home which “is a blend of classic white flowers: lilies, carnations, gladiolus, chrysanthemums with stems and leaves, with a hint of mahogany and oriental carpet”. On the website, the company explains, “This scent actually started out to be Flower Show… When a friend first smelled this one and exclaimed: ‘it smells like my Grandfather's funeral... call it Funeral Home!’, so we did.” I politely smiled and stashed it in my medicine cabinet only later re-gifting it to someone who absolutely adored the scent. To me, it reminded me of sadness. Not because my loved ones have passed, but because it truly did smell like a funeral home.
So, on Sunday, I will go to a funeral home for a memorial of a life snuffed too soon, and I will go through the motions. I think of the funeral home as that wall between the two gardens. Her life was beautiful, and her memory will be lived on in her babies and in those who loved her. In that, we will find beauty. Everything else is the strange wall we build.