Saturday, March 25, 2006

Southern Funeral

A week ago Wednesday I attended a funeral. The deceased was the father of one of my company's clients, a gentleman of some 89 years of age. I met him in late 2004 when I trained my first client site; he was the owner of the company then, but he transferred ownership to two of his sons last year. He was a very nice man, very friendly to me. While I was there, he fell and hurt himself. I saw how well he was thought of by the people of his company based on the worry they expressed at that time. He died of natural causes the weekend before the funeral.

Since moving to Louisiana I've been to one wedding (not including my own) and three funerals. I suppose the wedding-to-funeral ratio is a sign of my advancing years. Anyway, this funeral was a little different than the previous two: 1) I knew the deceased; 2) my wife did not know the deceased; 3) it was in a church and not a funeral home.

The service was only half an hour long, but it was the first of three that the family would have to sit through. There was a family-only service shortly afterward, and a short service at the grave. The gentleman was known to a lot of people in the community, which is why I think there was this public service.

I thought the service was too impersonal. There were three ministers, two Baptist and one Methodist. The first Baptist and the Methodist ministers seemed to know the gentleman personally. They gave short eulogies of no more than five minutes each. There were not a lot of personal anecdotes that didn't involve the ministers meeting the gentleman in their professional capacities. Still, some of the old man's personality did shine through their words.

The third minister was the fairly new pastor of the church and didn't appear to know the man very well. This was unfortunate as his sermon (not eulogy) lasted about 15 minutes. He only mentioned the deceased twice, and once was to say that the deceased would have agreed with everything the pastor was saying. The sermon was the traditional "he's gone to a better place, all believers are going there, isn't Jesus wonderful?" speech to reassure the bereaved. It was too impersonal and too evangelical, but not surprising for a Baptist minister.

During the service (we arrived at 9:20 for the 10:00 a.m. service to get seats) I had a lot of time to look over the church's stained glass windows. They were a little disturbing, but not in any kind of creepy way. They were colourful and competently done. They were from obvious bits of the New Testament. Above the pulpit was Christ being baptized by John the Baptist. What disturbed me was the way the artist rendered the "big names" in the pictures. The background folk were done sort of two dimensional in a style that fused the Bayeau tapestry with Nickelodeon. Christ, John the Baptist, and the other recognizable folk were drawn more realistically, like they were illustrated for an Alan Moore graphic novel (but more V for Vendetta than From Hell). They were sort of lifelike, so they clashed with the background characters, animals, buildings, etc. The disturbing part was Christ. Or, rather, Christ on the cross. The artist apparently believes in a buff Christ; he had quite the six-pack. I had this visual image of Jesus doing crunches before his Sermon on the Mount, which didn't sit well with the somber occasion. As I said, it was disturbing.

Whatever I might think of the funeral at least it was brief and respectful. I only noticed a couple of people in jeans, and they at least wore polo shirts (instead of t-shirts). No one wore a cowboy hat, in contrast to the previous two funerals (one in central Louisiana, and one in Texas). Most of the men at this one were in suits and ties (yours truly included).

It did reinforce one thing: I was thankful neither Alana nor I will have a funeral. We willed our bodies to the Louisiana State University medical department. (While some may see this as disturbing, I think of it as insurance. I like the idea that at least one or two additional people will be checking me for a pulse after someone says I've gone...)

8 comments:

Winter said...

I've been thinking a lot about death lately. I hate the idea of dying so I've pretty much decided not to, I'm looking into cryogenics..

Allan Goodall said...

The only problem with cryogenics is that whole "damage due to freezing" thing. They can freeze you, but chances are you wouldn't work right when they thawed you.

Oh, well, look at it this way. If you die in the next 100 years or so, you probably won't have to suffer through a mass extinction (comet hits the Earth, etc.) or the sun eating the Earth in a few hundred million years.

Yeah, I know, that's little consolation...

Michael said...

I'm with Woody Allen: I don't want to achieve immortality through my writing. I want to achieve it through not dying.

Jason said...

Cryonics hasn't been completely successful with all types of tissue yet. By the time a person in her 20s dies, who knows what advances will have been made? People being frozen now are counting on the people in the future to repair that damage. My response is to question their motivation for doing so even if they could make you function properly. Maybe if the world suffered a near ELE spare people might be needed to help repopulate, but if the earth were still suffering from overpopulation why would they bother thawing and repairing them unless the preserved had something else to offer? And let's not forget that society will change drastically in the coming years. If you woke up 1000 or even 100 years in the future would you be able to cope psychologically? That, of course, presumes a benign culture. What if a culture developed here that wasn't so nice? Those frozen corpses may simply be disposed of. Or perhaps they will be harvested for parts. Or maybe, since those people are legally dead, they will be declared to have no rights and be used for slave labor, or worse. Your earthly afterlife may end up being hell.

Allan Goodall said...

You know, I was going to mention the Woody Allen quote...

Allan Goodall said...

I suppose the amount of time between your death and the defrosting will, in large part, determine whether or not you will be an historical curiousity. There would be a great deal of interest today in defrosting someone from even 100 years ago.

Personally, having minimal rights (though perhaps not to the point of being a slave) beats being dead. That's assuming that something doesn't happen to your capsule in the meantime. You really think all those frozen corpses are going to stay frozen for 100, 200, 300 years? Chances are something bad will happen to at least some of them.

Winter said...

Or maybe everything will be fine Jason and I'll hunt down your great great grandchildren and tell them:
"Well kids I offered to share my tank with him, but noooo.."

Jason said...

It is true that people from this time would be very valuable to future historians. So the interest in defrosting and repairing someone, or a few someones, would be great. But how about defrosting and repairing 1,000? All from the same general time period? We sometimes find well preserved corpses that are thousands of years old. If we could bring some back to life I'm sure we would do it. But would we bring 1,000 back? Just thinking about what we would do to the handful we would bring back makes me think I'd rather be one of the thousands that didn't get selected for revivification. I'll just stay dead, thank you.