Saturday, April 25, 2009

May my funeral descend into a brawl

I got the weirdest thing in the mail the other day.

Wait. Back up.

So a couple of weeks ago, I had a lot of death going on in my life. I had two funerals to attend in one week, and yet another that I would have attended were it possible for me to be at two funerals in two different cities at the same time. I wrote about one of those funerals already. The funeral I missed was for a coworker of mine, a good man, not exactly a close friend, but a guy I liked a lot, somebody you could share an easy laugh with, and clearly a person who meant a great deal to a lot of folks.

The other funeral I attended that week was for my grandmother. My mom's mom.

This thing I got in the mail the other day, it starts off like this:

Yes, because that's exactly what I need to hear in a form letter from some faceless entity whose name I don't recognize. But that's not the weird part.

But wait, before I get to that, yes, it was my grandmother's funeral the other week. I sort of zipped past that, didn't I? The thing is, well, heh...fuck. I'm not really quite sure how to put this other than to be straightforward and honest about it, so, here goes: I wasn't really all that broken up about it. I feel like a real shit typing that, as if there's some piece of my soul missing, the part that allows you to feel sorrow and grief over the loss of beloved family members who cared for you and loved you since you were a small child, but, well, it's not that simple. Is it ever that simple? It is? I'd like to think that it is, sometimes, in some places, perhaps in indigenous cultures that have managed to remain untouched and unaware and innocent.

Don't get me wrong, I was sad about it. But it wasn't exactly a surprise. The only surprise to me was the fact that she lasted as long as she did. I figured that once my grandfather died, she would follow pretty shortly on his heels, but she managed to stay with us for several more years. And looking through the pictures of her life, there were a fair many of her with me at various ages. Birthday parties, holidays, graduations, moments forgotten, their significance not immediately clear, but still valuable and worth holding onto.

All the same, I can't say that I was particularly close to the woman who was my grandmother. Maybe I was as a little boy, but as I grew older, those bonds thinned. And her funeral was perhaps the strangest service I have ever attended, and it inspired me to demand a promise out of those of you reading this who may one day attend my funeral. And I hope that I don't cause any offense to any family members reading this who may have been there, but the fact of the matter is that there were many moments during her funeral when people were describing their encounters with this woman, my grandmother, and I was sitting there wondering, "who the hell are they talking about?" It was as if these people were describing a completely different humanoid entity whose time had just passed. This preacher person who gave a eulogy, who supposedly had spent a fair amount of time around my grandparents, he wove this narrative that at times made me think, "okay, that sounds sort of like the Mimmie and Papa that I knew," but at other times veered off in other directions and had me wondering things like "um, did you ever even meet these people you're sermonizing about?" or "were my grandparents double agents?" The only part that really rang true was a poem read by two of my cousins, people who, also being my grandmother's grandchildren, saw her in a light similar to the one in which I saw her.

Oh, and then there's the fact that one of the great big happy family photos propped up by the open casket up front for all to see, taken at some holiday years and years past, pictured me standing next to my EX-wife. Awkward?

But back to the strangeness, the letter I received, a letter which came from a company called Algordanza and was signed, apparently by hand, by a person named Christina. This letter goes on to say....
" thing that does soothe the pain and bring closure is witnessing your loved one properly memorialized."

"We are the creators of the cremation or "Memorial Diamond" the world's most beautiful memorial."

"...not available to families in the United States until it is available to you."

"...state of the art...treats your loved ones with the utmost respect..."

"Unlike imitation diamonds, the Algordanaza Diamond will be 100% created from the remains of the person you want to memorialize."
I stood in the kitchen staring at that sentence for several moments trying to make sure that I was properly comprehending the familiar yet strange shapes on the paper before me, checking and doublechecking that my brain was accurately piecing the words into sentences, the sentences into ideas. But there was no mistake. This company wanted me to pay them to make a diamond from a dead person's ashes.

My grandmother was not cremated, and nowhere in this letter does it actually say who the hell they are talking about. My wife's aunt was cremated, so I can only assume that these Algordanza people were referring to her, though how they got my contact info or why the letter is addressed to me, I haven't the slightest idea.

So I have to ask a couple of things of you, good people. First off, if you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourself at my funeral, and should you hear a person eulogizing over me, and should this person seem unfamiliar, as if they were not a person that actually knew me in life, and should their description of the man that I was in life ring untrue in your ears and in your heart, I ask, nay, I demand that you stand up in the middle of the service and shout something to the effect of "NOW HOLD ON JUST A FUCKING SECOND!" And when you've got everyone's attention, proceed to describe who I was to you. Give your own eulogy for me. Because dear God, let my eulogy not be left to those who did not know me. And should it descend into a brawl, all the better.

The other request is simpler: don't let my ashes get pounded into a diamond. Because that's some tacky ass commemorative plate infomercial roadside attraction bullshit.


Jeff said...

Should I ever find myself at your funeral Travis, I shall try to bring enough whisky to fuel the brawl.

I've seen the manufactured diamond from organic remains thing before and actually though it was kind of cool, but I suspect that it helps when it's presented by a lab nerd on a PBS science program in a "look, this is so cool what we can do" fashion... rather than a cold call sales pitch from someone preying on the bereaved, and who likely spends the rest of their free time running Nigerian email scams and punching kittens.

But it does leave the question of, who the fuck wears that diamond? "See here kiddies, this sparkly thing used to be your great-grandma..."

TwoBusy said...

A promise: if I die and someone thinks it would be cool to turn me into cubic ziconia, I swear to fucking god that I will come back and haunt that person forever.

sybil law said...

I can completely relate to you scratching your head over the eulogy stuff. The part I hate the most is that it's so cheesy and generic, and no one ever says, "She REALLY liked to get her drink on, am I right?", or whatever.
Also, I wasn't that torn up when my grandmother died, either.
But I am SO gonna be there at your funeral, ready to kick some ass.
And question - what if everyone just had nice little diamond grillz made, for their teeth, outta your remains. Is that okay?

Anonymous said...

Did they get this idea from a cheesy, not particularly believable, 80s horror movie? Does the diamond start glowing and then behead someone when two unmarried teens start humping in the next room over?

Does the fact that I want to make this into a movie make me a bad person?

Jenn C. said...

I love Tim's movie idea.

I was actually happy when my grandparents died. Happy that two of them would no longer suffer from their ravaging illnesses, and happy that the third one was no longer wearing the crown for the meanest man alive.

At my dad's funeral, his preacher kept pronouncing my family's last name wrong. Every time the preacher said it, I shuddered that this dick at the pulpit didn't know my dad at all, much less bother to find out how to say his last name. The whole charade was an effing nightmare. It would have been more cathartic had the event erupted into a brawl.

The Holmes said...

I forgot to mention the best part of the letter. At the end, there was a testimonial from some woman who supposedly had a diamond made of her father's remains, and then used the diamond in her engagement ring. That way, her father could walk her down the aisle from beyond the grave.

Anonymous said...

And he could be there, on their wedding night.

steve blankenship said...

now that is kinda creepy i actually heard of this and wanted myself turned into a diamond to be remembered but i don't wanna have my reletives think i am still there then, once i'm dead, i'm gone, hello? but the diamond idea came to me one day when my wife asked me what she should do if i did die? so i guess make me a diamond so i can watch new couples have sex and behead the couple next door lol (from earlier posts)