Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Laughter Through Tears

"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," is a quote from Dolly Parton's Truvy in Steel Magnolias and one that's been quoted back to me by Kristy and Ronnie during the many difficult moments of the past year. Laughter through tears seemed to be the most constant emotion I experienced this week. A funeral is a solemn, often very grave experience, particularly when it involves someone taken from us unexpectedly or too soon. In my family's case, I choose to be reverent of the irreverence because humor has always been our saving grace.

When my sister Mona died, it was not completely unexpected due to her long battle with mental illness. I spoke at her service and my sole purpose was to remind those attending that despite her struggle with suffocating sadness, she did indeed love to laugh and often demonstrated a wicked wit. Elements of her funeral bore witness to that and I'm sure that if she herself didn't have a hand in it, she was enjoying the twists. Mona requested cremation and she died in Carolina Beach, N.C. The funeral director had the cremation set up in N.C. and the remains were to be shipped to us in West Virginia. As it were, shipping was late and at one point, my sister was literally lost in the mail. We had rescheduled the service twice; my sister Shirley and I had return flights booked and we were all scrambling. The service ended up centering around a framed picture of Mona as her remains had still not arrived. The burial had to take place two days after the service when her remains finally arrived. Indeed, while the phrase is mostly used in jest, Mona was literally late for her own funeral.

When the funeral director asked me about the type of music Mona enjoyed, I replied that she was fond of Motown and music from the 70's. Apparently, a compilation of each was employed but I didn't notice as I was focused on the many mourners passing through paying their respects. My friend Lisa sidled up to me and whispered, "Um, Greg, why is there Star Wars music playing?" Apparently, the music of Star Wars was part of the compilation and it wasn't just the grand John Williams score. It was the Stars on 45 remix, complete with sound effects. I was suddenly and acutely aware that as one of the mourners was offering heartfelt sympathies, a laser battle was raging and a Wookiee was grunting.

Witty moments were abundant throughout Dad's funeral, both intended and not. Despite thinking that we were prepared concerning arrangements, we managed to completely forget finding pallbearers. It was a comedic rush of finding folks and we didn't have it complete until the last moment. I'd mentioned Rev. George Harris's inclusion of two of my blog stories. I was the most choked up during the recounting of the Christmas basket story only to guffaw through tears as the Barry Manilow story was told (see Snowmageddon Blues). George would go on to refer to "Rexisms" which were turns of phrase only my Dad could come up with. George would also go on to break Guy Code and speak of the Men's Fellowship meetings and the "matters of great profundity" covered in the minutes such as the possibility of water on the Bull Creek Bridge and who WVU might be playing that week. The service blessedly held many of these moments eliciting laughter through tears.

The post-burial dinner at the church would feature it's own funniness. It was a smallish crowd; mostly family and close friends. Kristy, Keith and Lydia took bets to see how long it would take me to photograph the food, including the baked beans at left. I'm betting Keith won as he is painfully all too resigned to waiting until I photograph his food before he can eat it. Then there were the Mystery Haughts. Apparently, my family has a distantly connected branch in Ravenswood that I knew nothing about. Their identities were confirmed by my Aunt Kate, they sent flowers to the funeral home and arrived en masse to attend the service, burial and the dinner. They commented on the flowers and the food and the service. Sitting by my mother during the dinner, I kept thinking, "Seriously, who ARE these people?". Amazingly, at the end of the day, I STILL hadn't met them. I couldn't tell you any of their names but we still managed to be photographed with them. Go figure.

The final moment would be the corker and it was provided by my dear bestie Kristy. Kristy has been making me laugh since we were four years old and she remains the only person I know who has actually danced with a lampshade on her head. She had already provided me with some giggles over the fact that Dad didn't look complete as there was no gravy on his tie. In this latest scenario, Kristy apparently made an unknowingly grand departure from the church dinner with her dress tucked into the back of her panty hose; her assets shining for all to see. Actually, I missed this and Lydia may have been the only one to bear (bare?) witness. We are all unsure of when this first happened and how long Kristy strolled about in this condition....especially Kristy herself.

I'm personally hoping that the Mystery Haughts may have seen this. I can just imagine the conversation...boy, when those Haughts host a funeral, its a party!

Dad would've loved every bit of it.


Kristy said...

I still think I looked fabulous LOL!!! And don't forget about the Men's Fellowship arguing over the "big bird" and whether or not it really existed. Point Pleasant has The Mothman. St. Marys has Big Bird..and my big "b*tt" How perfect. Hmmmm. I wonder who will play me in the movie. Great post!

Confounded Cook said...

The Big Bird! That's the one I forgot about! Thank you for filling that in. Also, I shan't rest until the day you have the dress stuffed in your panty hose AND the lampshade on your head at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Hope you are doing okay. Thank's for sharing your
stories with us, this post made me laugh and cry!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Greg for making me laugh until I cried! This is hilarious! Love ya!

Anonymous said...

Oh ok. Here's hoping this works. Loved the post. I'm hoping there is a Star Wars lightsaber battle raging at my funeral as well :)


Confounded Cook said...

Julie, I hope to never see that day arrive but if it does, I will wear the Darth Vader helmet myself. :)

Lyd said...

LOL!!! Wonderfully written! I'm still laughing. Remembering Kristy with the hose tuck is my new "make me laugh" thought!

Anonymous said...

I just had a staff memeber pass away after a battle with cancer today. It was a hard day at old SHS. I was talking with my friend Jennifer about what kind of note I would leave for everyone (for we are certain Julia has something for us as of yet to be read), and I know it would be nothing but hysterical. As far as music, I would request something inappropriate. Perhaps not Star Wars, but Lil' Kim or drunk Judy Garland. God bless you, man. I'm glad you're back.

Anonymous said...

Greg, so sorry for your loss, but your post actually made me giggle quite loudly. I had to read passages for my co-workers so they would understand what was so entertaining at my desk. Again, I am sorry to hear of your father's passing. I hope you are doing as well as you can be. It sounds like you have an amazing support system to fall back on.

Kari Boley Long

Confounded Cook said...

I do, indeed, Kari. Thank you for your kind comments and I'm glad you appreciated the funny parts. Thank God for the humor.

Post a Comment