The plan was to write the other half of this the day after posting the beginning, but life got in the way and everything got dramatic and weird. I’ll try to pick up where I left off.
So, I’ve already gone through what black funerals are supposed to look like. Now. My mom’s mom’s side of the family (keep up, because I’ll talk about my mom’s dad’s side later) knows how to throw a funeral. They know how to do everything black churches do because they are black church people. I’m not knocking any of it—just making a distinction. Black church people do things bigger than everybody else, especially in the South. My mom and I never officially belonged to that church (because my mom believed in “church on Saturdays” and “don’t eat shellfish” and all those crazy things) but sometimes I would go with my Grandma. I was definitely out of my element and I always felt like I wasn’t singing loud enough or shouting hard enough.
But I totally learned how to fake speaking in tongues and you could not tell me I wasn’t sanctified and holy in that moment.
One of my fears when I heard my mom died was that her mom’s church would bogart the funeral and run all over my dad. He’d be distressed and they would turn the whole thing into a traditional black funeral spectacle that none ofus—her immediate family—wanted. The last time I was visiting, my parents and I actually went to a black funeral. Afterward, we had dinner at a seafood restaurant and talked about how unnecessary and extra all the dramatics were. I really didn’t want to sit through that for my own mother’s funeral.
I was afraid for no reason though because my dad was not having it. He told everybody we were having a short graveside service—no wake, no church funeral—and that was that. The funeral director asked him exactly what he wanted. ”Do you want there to be a song?”
“Nope. Once somebody starts singing, they don’t know when to stop and somebody picks it up at the end and it keeps going until somebody is shouting and falling out on the floor.”
Funeral director scratched that off. ”Do you want anyone to give remarks?”
“Nope. Somebody says something, then everybody says something, and we don’t need to spend two hours listening to people talk about how they picked blackberries with Dianne when they were two years old.”
Funeral director scratched that off. Paused. And said, “Oh y’all having a white funeral!”
I guess if that’s what you want to call it.
At the last minute, my dad changed his mind and decided to hold a viewing of the body the day before because my mom’s family was annoyed there wouldn’t be a service (and they wouldn’t get their show). Everybody would get to see my mom all dressed up in her white suit with her hair done and go home happy, or whatever emotion they were looking to get out of viewing a dead body.
I had no desire to see it but everybody was really hellbent on making me. For what? Why do I want to see my mom dead in a box? I don’t get it. I don’t get the fascination. Is that supposed to be closure of some sort? Some kind of last goodbye? I know one thing, anybody who needs to see me up close and personal better do it while I’m alive, because I’m getting cremated immediately.
And one of those trashy heffahs at the viewing took a picture and put that shit on Facebook. FOR WHAT. Still mad at that and I hope she reads this.
Viewing for the immediately family was at 3, then the funeral home was open to everyone else from 4 to 6, and then the immediate family was scheduled to return to the funeral home and receive the guests and let them pay their respects.
I didn’t want to do ANY of that. I was so over people asking me “How are you? Are you OK? She was a good woman, wasn’t she?” Over and over and over. So many people crying in my face and looking at me like a psychopath because I refused to view the body. My mom and I had a rocky relationship, but the last time I saw her face to face, she was SMILING. Cheesing hard too. I got this big toothy grin straight from my momma, and her whole face lit up when she smiled. That’s the last time I saw her, over a year ago. Let me keep that image if that’s what I want to do! I don’t want an image of her dead in a box anywhere in my consciousness. If I wanna remember my momma smiling, then let me do that and stop asking me if I want to come back later to pay my respects or if I wanna view privately. No I don’t. Leave me alone.
Gosh, I’m so messed up and heated, I’m changing verb tenses all up and through, but you know what I’m saying.
So the viewing happened, and the next day we had the graveside service. Some sweet ladies from my mom’s church (the old Saturday-going church) came by to set up a buffet for everyone at the house. There was a tent outside and some tables and chairs for folks to sit and chat with their food. I thought it was really cute. The weather was perfect and I was just trying to make it through the service so I could get back and visit with the family I never get to see.
We did the whole slow-riding-in-the-limo-with-lights-flashing to the grave site and everyone else was already there. At the few funerals I’ve been to, I’ve often wondered what the people sitting right in front were thinking. I just felt like everyone was staring at me waiting for something to happen, while I sat listening to the two pastors read/say things I didn’t believe. And then I thought “why is my aunt late?” watching her get out of the car in the middle of the service and walk over. Everyone else was on time though, so I’ll put this in the WIN column for black people.
Then it was over and people wanted to cry on me and give me more hugs. The service was too short to get anybody all wrapped up in hysterics, so nobody fell out….except ONE LADY, who was laid up on the casket crying, boo-hooing about “Dianne what I’m gon do without you!” She was also the one at the house the day after Mom died, laid out on the floor crying, grabbing at my dad’s pantleg like a puppy that has to pee. She was also the one who, when asked “Are you Dianne’s daughter?” by one of the mourners, responded with “Yes” and I had to set her loopy ass straight right there at the cemetery.
That’s not the only time I had to get a smidge ratchet. My mom’s dad’s side of the family set me off as well.
My grandma never married my mom’s dad, who became a drunk and had a gaggle of kids by some other woman he married. Grandma married a different man and had two more kids. That’s the family my mom grew up with and those are the folks I recognize as my aunt and uncle and grandfather. I don’t have any memories of my mom’s bio-father and I only knew one aunt and uncle from that side. His wife is sweet, and I met her a few times as well, but on the whole, I have no contact with that side of the family.
After the funeral, I was pretty delighted to see so many of my mom’s friends from my childhood coming back to pay their respects and tell me how big I was (and talk about my hair of course). I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, so those adults are who I remember most from being a little one, and it was so good to see them all again. I was talking to a group of my mom’s classmates (they were the last all-black graduating class in South Carolina and stayed really tight, even now) when this ancient old lady grabbed my arm and said, “Lemme borrow you for a minute.” I went along as she guided me away from the crowd so we could speak solo. She looked up at me and said, “You remember me?”
She coulda been Sojourner Truth for all I knew. ”No ma’am, I can’t say that I do.”
She smiled. ”Well that’s cause we ain’t never met.”
::side eye:: Already, I was peeved because some stranger is pulling me away from people I actually knew for some unknown reason. ”Oh ok.”
“I’m your aunt, your grandaddy’s sister.” I thought about my grandfather and she didn’t look like any of them. His whole family is light-skinned with freckles and fairly tall, while she was more my color, and tiny. She must have seen my confusion, because then she mentioned my mom’s biological father was her brother, not the man I grew up with and considered Grandpa.
“Oh ok, it’s nice to meet you.” I wanted to excuse myself and go back to the folks I was talking to. The group was starting to break up and I hadn’t seen everyone I wanted to see. I wanted to exchange contact info and do the whole Christmas Card List thing that people do when they turn into adults. She had other plans. ”Come on over here and lemme introduce you to your aunts and uncles.”
Introduce me. To my family. At my mom’s funeral. Are you kidding me. I went along, shook some hands, let some names go in one ear and out the other, but ain’t nobody got time fah dat. You had two and a half decades to meet me and get to know me. For half that time, I was living less that 15 miles from all of you, and you want to INTRODUCE yourselves at my mother’s funeral?? Why are you even there?! You clearly haven’t seen her in 30 years, if that. I was cordial. But I told them how it was.
“Thank you for coming and paying your respects, but you’ve had 20 years to come and be a part of my life, and I don’t think we can squeeze all that time into the 20 minutes after my mother’s funeral. So, if you will excuse me, I need to reconnect with some people whose names I actually know.”
And then I went back to the familiar faces in the crowd. Let me know if you would like for me to attend you next funeral, because clearly I know how to make it interesting.
This should be the end. BUT. Two ridiculous things happened during the next couple of days after that, so I guess I’ll have to do a part three because I can’t focus anymore and I wanna watch music videos.
Til next time…