Funerals make you appreciate life more

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Not to steal a line from Randy Owens, but “family ties run deep in this land.”

If you doubt it, pick a night and visit a local funeral home — which is exactly where I was Sunday during the traditional “6 p.m. until 8 p.m.” viewing time.

And while many Southerners rejoice in a “going home celebration” by pulling out their Sunday finery and dusting off the casserole pans, I’m not one of them. I confess. I hate it.

I love the food, but I hate the funeral home. (Apologies to Evans’, Foreman’s, Keahey’s, Wyatt’s and Kirk’s and anyone else I missed.)

Sunday, I — like many of my other family members — said good-bye to a loved one lost.

As members of my immediate family gave thanks over the ham, others in my family gave thanks for an end of the suffering after my great-uncle passed away Thanksgiving Day from various health complications.

By the time the evening was out, I had been informed of the passing and my pending duty to “represent the cousins” at venue of my choice — the funeral home or the graveside.

And seeing how the last funeral I attended was my daddy’s about 15 years ago, I chose the funeral home.

One of the first things I noticed when got there was the parking lot was packed for a Sunday night. And as I waited for my mother and sister-in-law to arrive, I had plenty of time to survey the comings and goings of the building.

With each passing of headlights through the parking lot, my feelings of apprehension grew. Resolute in my determination to do my family duty, I stayed my ground even as I politely smiled and nodded at the steady stream of people making their way to the front door.

I didn’t know a single person, didn’t recognize a face, hear a familiar voice or anything.

It worried me so much I grabbed my BlackBerry out of the car and checked The Star-News Web site to make sure I was at the right funeral home.

I was, and I still hadn’t found my momma, my sister-in-law, my aunts or any person on this earth I could follow through that door.

It was a prime example of why I hate funeral homes.

I always feel weird-ed out and unsure of my place, but I guess that’s what death does to everyone.

It makes you stand up and take notice of the “who” and the “what” around you and how you fit into the scheme of things.

It makes you grab on to those who are nearest, who for me thankfully finally arrived, and hold tight.

It makes you walk through the doors not knowing who or what’s on the other side, which in Sunday’s case were the families for the two other “parlors” which accounted for me not knowing anyone in the parking lot. Whew.

And it makes you smile at the simple pleasures, like a kiss on the cheek from an old friend or the strength in a hug of condolence.

Death reminds us that life is for the living. We only have one chance to live it right.