My grandma’s funeral was last Thursday, and as of about 2:30 that afternoon I can no longer say I’ve never spoken at one.
What a strange feeling it was. Not the speaking itself, aside from the setting I’m used to that. The strange part was the feeling I had when it was over.
I didn’t write anything down. I’m often more comfortable having a rough outline of what I want to get across and then speaking off the top of my head or from the heart, whichever you prefer. The goodbye post was a big help as far as an outline, so that was taken care of. All I had to do was get up there, say a few things, hold myself together and not sound like a fool.
As far as I could tell, I did alright. I sounded ok to me in the moment, and quite a few people came up after the service and said I did a good job. And somehow I managed not to cry, which I wasn’t quite sure I’d be able to pull off.
But when my time was over and I went back to my seat, it took me what felt like a good 5 minutes but was probably less to be able to focus again. It was partly because of the relief of making it through, but there was also this odd realization that I couldn’t remember a word I’d just said or anything else about what just happened. Had I really gone up there? Did I talk? I didn’t throw in a curse word or say something embarrassing, did I? The best way I can describe it is that it felt like sometimes when you’re out drinking. You’re having a good time chatting it up and generally having fun, Then you have a moment to yourself and your mind suddenly realizes that it can’t recap something that basically just happened. You haven’t done anything wrong and you’re still totally fine, but for a moment you panic because you can’t be completely sure. Eventually something triggers your brain or snaps you back to reality and you realize you’re ok, but the seconds in between feel like eternities.
The funeral was pretty simple, which is what I think grandma would’ve wanted. I imagine if she had her way there wouldn’t have been anything since she was never big on fuss, but if you had to have something, this was about right. A couple of songs, a family speech or 2, some god talk and a sandwich. There were even a couple of moments when I almost burst out laughing. One was thanks to the person that every church seems to have who sings way too loud and way too wobbly in a key that didn’t previously exist, and the other was an old joke I thought of when they played one of the hymns.
The day finally arrives: Forrest Gump dies and goes to heaven. He is met at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter himself.
Peter says “Well, Forrest, it’s certainly good to see you. We have heard a lot about you. I must inform you that the place is filling up fast, and we’ve been administering an entrance examination for everyone. The tests are fairly short, but you need to pass before you can get into Heaven.”
Forrest responds “It shore is good to be here Saint Peter. I was looking forward to this. Nobody ever told me about any entrance exam. Sure hope the test ain’t too hard; life was a big enough test as it was.”
“I know, but the test I have for you is only three questions. First: What days of the week begin with the letter T? Second: How many seconds are there in a year? Third: What is God’s first name?”
Forrest goes away to think the questions over. The first thing the next morning, Peter returns to the gate to find Forrest already there waiting for him.
Peter smiles warmly and says, “Now that you have had a chance to think the questions over, tell me your answers.”
Forrest says, “Well, the first one – how many days of the week begin with the letter ‘T’? Shucks, that one’s easy. That’d be Today and Tomorrow.
The saint’s eyes open wide and he exclaims, “Forrest! That’s not what I was thinking, but… you do have a point, and I guess I didn’t specify, so I give you credit for that answer.
“How about the next one: How many seconds in a year?”
“Now that one’s harder,” says Forrest. “But I thunk and thunk about it and I guess the only answer can be twelve.”
Astounded, St. Peter says, “Twelve? Twelve! Forrest, how in Heaven’s name could you come up with twelve seconds in a year?”
Forest says “Shucks, there gotta be twelve: January second, February second, March second…..”
“Hold it,” Peter interrupts. “I see where you’re going with this, and I guess you’re right. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but I’ll give you credit for that one, too. Let’s go on with the final question. Can you tell me God’s first name?”
Forrest replied, “Andy.”
“OK, OK,” said a frustrated gatekeeper, “I can understand how you came up with your answers to my first two questions, but just how in the world did you come up with the name Andy as the first name of God?”
“That was the easiest one of all,” Forrest replied. “I learned it from the song!”
“Song? What song?”
“You know, ‘Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own…'”
It’s not the best example since Anne Murray enunciates properly, but all I could hear in the church was a chorus of Andies and it was the funniest damn thing because nothing was supposed to be funny. I wonder if I was the only one thinking this.
In case anybody’s looking for it, I found an obituary here: Ruby Ida Wettlaufer.
And…I guess that’s it. It’s all over now. Time to carry on, as we always do in life. Carry on, but never forget.