A Loco Viewpoint
Encounter at a Funeral
The young boy of maybe ten or twelve was in the restroom of the funeral home washing his hands. He looked dashing in his suit and tie but I would have bet money he would have preferred to be in jeans and a t-shirt. He wasn’t alone in that preference. Wearing a suit doesn’t feel natural to me, either, having a body shape more suited to sweat pants.
I had gone to the washroom since I had something in my eyes. Having something in my eyes invariably makes my nose run like a faucet, as well, especially if that something in my eyes are tears. I am a sappy sort and funerals in particular make me tear up almost as bad as the scene at the end of “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” when the whole Peanuts gang join in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.
I had gone into the sole cubicle in the facility but didn’t think to close the door since I was just grabbing some toilet paper. I wasn’t intending on an extended stay.
"You don't need to use the stuff on the roll," the dapperly clad youth advised me knowingly. "They have real Kleenex over by the sink."
I thanked the lad, chuckling a bit to myself, despite my heavy heart. I was surprised he would be so bold considering I was a stranger and parents nowadays instruct their offspring to fear those they don’t know. The act of kindness was as genuine as it was timely.
Funerals are never one of my favorite things to do, but they are one of those social obligations one doesn't set aside easily. As sobering and emotionally draining as they are, they show support for the surviving family members and serve to provide that all-important closure we seem to need to move forward in our grief. Plus, they always have free food after.
For this service, we were saying goodbye to Cupcake's brother's father-in-law, Bill. I didn't know him that well; just from Cupcake's family gatherings, but he always struck me as a kind, affable, intelligent, gentle man. You could tell he had been a fine patriarch of his clan by the love and respect his children and their spouses held for him, as well as all their numerous progeny.
It was a lovely service; a fine tribute to a man well worthy of the very large collection of loved ones. The eulogy was delivered by Bill’s nephew, Tom; a local musician and public figure of some note. His description of his beloved uncle was heart-warming, eloquent and even funny at times. It was the ideal words for the moment. It was as much by Tom’s inspiring recollections of the man we knew that had caused me to get something in my eyes, as from the other contributions from other family members. Little wimpy toots into the tissues I had wisely remembered to put in pocket just weren’t doing the job of staunching the embarrassing leakage from my nose. I had just used up my last tissue when the service had come to its end, for which I was most grateful. Waiting my turn to file solemly out of the chapel with the soggy tissue holding back the increasing pressure, seemed to take an eternity. I was never so glad to find the bathroom where I met the young fellow in the snappy suit.
"So you're feeling pretty sad, huh?" the boy inquired, adjusting his tie. "Was he your best friend or something?"
I smiled, as much by his earnest attempt at consolation as by his obvious precociousness. He looked at me inquiringly, awaiting a response.
"Yes," I allowed. "I am very sad. It is always hard to bid someone farewell, especially when you know they meant so much to so many people I care about."
"Here, you go," he said softly, offering the tissue box. "These are easier on your nose. I heard your skin gets thin and brittle when you get old."
"Thanks, buddy," I smiled despite myself. "If anything goes wrong with this nose, that would be a pretty big problem."
"I didn't want to say anything but you're right about that," he smiled. "So was he a good friend of yours?"
I explained my relationship with the dearly departed. I told him that, although Bill and I didn’t know one another well, I feel very close to his extended family. I knew how much pain they were in and I couldn’t help but empathize with their sorrow. The young fellow listened intently.
"It's okay to be sad," he advised me wisely. "I wouldn't make fun of you for that."
I let him know I was relieved by that information and then blew my leaky proboscis heartily into the real, genuine Kleenex. The sound filled the small room, echoing off the tiled walls. The boy looked at me in admiration.
"Wow!" he said admiringly. "That was really loud."
"Yes," I agreed with a wry grin. "I could probably keep ships at sea away from the shallows. It wouldn't have been very proper to do during the service, though."
"That's for sure," he agreed. "They’d probably kick you out. So, are you okay now?"
“Yes,” I nodded and smiled. “You’ve been a big help. Are you okay, too?”
“I’m okay,” he assured me. “It’s all kind of weird.”
“Funerals are like that, I suppose,” I said. “They aren’t something you want to get used to going to.”
“Well, I better get back to it,” he sighed, checking his look in the mirror once more. “It was nice talking to you.”
I thanked him and he was gone. As I walked out into the foyer, I had to admit my heart had been lifted by my chance encounter. To be offered compassion is always a blessing, but to have it come from a surprising source is always extra special.
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