If there’s one “good” thing that can be said about the business of death, it’s the inevitable run into the second-cousin you hadn’t seen since the last wedding — or the last funeral. There doesn’t necessarily have to be something preventing me, or you, from calling said cousin during the mundane times of our lives. There isn’t need for a reason. We just don’t call. I know I don’t. Then someone dies, and as is our duty, as is our tradition — based on our religious cults or not — we congregate; we whisper politely; we cry, or hold back tears; we drink coffee and remember the good times.
This talk of the good times usually involve the deceased, who somehow kept us all in touch, but as this person grew closer to death, so the distance grew. It’s not what you or anybody wanted, it’s just how things happened to work out towards the end. This end I speak of isn’t a short period of time. The variables of life usually take a matter of months, even years.
I usually feel guilty at both the wakes and the funerals. I feel guilty for not keeping in touch with all of the interesting people there. And throughout the process of our rituals, during the down times (so to speak), I try to play catch-up with these people (my family). When we discuss how we should meet more often, not only at the deaths in our family, I notice the same feeling of guilt in their eyes. Being that we have no one to blame but ourselves individually, the topic is prone to quickly return to that of our shared childhood. The good times.
Growing up, my mother always mentioned to me how she didn’t like the idea of laying out the deceased at a wake for people to come and cry over. It isn’t all too rare for emotions to get out of control and some drama to unfold — something that gives the survivors another reason to avoid staying in touch. I’ve witnessed a few firsthand in my lifetime. I don’t wish to witness any more. So my mother wishes to be cremated immediately, and I respect that. I wish the same for myself.
At my very modest wedding ceremony, there were no second-cousins in attendance. I don’t blame them at all though, as none were invited. None of them knew I was engaged. As a matter of fact, I doubt they knew so much as to my definite sexual orientation, let alone that I had a girlfriend I was serious about. Again, I don’t blame them. How could they know anything if I didn’t tell them?
Off the top of my head, I can’t really picture whom will be next to die in my family, nor whom will be important enough to garner full attendance in the event of their death. But when it does happen, that is when my second-cousins and such will meet my wife. It will be at this death of the last of the patriarchs and matriarchs that we will attempt to catch up on years of living.
As silly as I see these rituals of mourning, it’s nice to know that the business of death is good for something.