Monday, February 25, 2013

Speaking at Funerals

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This is a curious skill: I speak at funerals. My aunt said I did well reading a piece I'd written at her mom's service. This was my grandma- most of us grandkids called her Bammy. I thanked Aunt Joey, and she said that Dad told her I'm good with public speaking when I'm in the mood. That's so spot on I wonder if he was quoting me. I told her that when someone says my speaking will make them happy that is great motivation to be in my extrovert self.

I told her that I have skills that are abstract and impractical, and that using a skill to... well just using a skill feels good. I looked for a long while for a poem about laughter because Becky's laugh is my impression of her, it is her. I love this piece by Emerson but as much as I adore most of the lovely lines, the bit about false friends didn't feel right.
To laugh often and much
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better,

whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Then I wrote a poem for her, and my aunt likes it, so I'm going to read it. That seems better: I'm a writer and I made my cousin's Dear Ones a gift.

I'm sad and nervous and Shane just observed that I look sour.

This is how I can speak at a funeral: They come so soon it's still surreal. Right after a death we walk through the rituals and everything is a half dream. The reality of loss is beyond us waiting for the time in our minds to catch up. I'm floating in a gray place. Sort of dangling and unfocused, like my mind won't really look at this.

The more I write the more I think, and I can't think today, so I'm signing off.
Here is my poem for Becky Czeck, with great affection and so much love:
Her laughter defined her.
It was a unique sound.
It was musical
but not in a tinkling, bell-like way.
It had a shape; it was round and solid
and it was a sturdy thing.
It had the real warmth of a perfect campfire.
Her laugh was very much a chuckle,
and hearing it struck cords
in your own throat and you
had to laugh along;
it would make your throat tickle.
Her laughter was a comfortable sweatshirt
and an old paperback book. It was
the book you read in a quiet room and
when you laugh aloud someone smiles
and asks you what you’re reading.
It was a VHS comedy on a well-worn tape
and a Weird Al Yancovic cassette looped
to play all night long.
It was Saturday Night Live in the 70s.
This tangible laugh, I’m holding it now
and it’s easy to hold: A laugh you can
put in a wooden box for safekeeping.
This rich, deep music is golden and
chocolate and Peanuts cartoons.
It’s MAD magazines in our Grandmother’s
basement and root beer on metal shelves.
This laugh is a crazy-quilt and we can
wear the colors and comfort of this
wonderful laugh.
We can wear it and listen and feel her laughing always.

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