You put the real in memorial

Yesterday, Tina and I drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan to celebrate my grandmother’s life. We called her Opoe. We only stayed for the service and the lunch immediately after then jumped in the car and drove three hours back.

We’re absolutely slammed right now work-wise, and getting back wasn’t exactly my top priority, but I’m not the only decision maker in our family.

It was a nice service. It was held in a little chapel with maybe 50 or 60 people in attendance. There were stained glass windows on both sides of the space, but the side where the sun was shining, there poured in the most gorgeous yellow light.

There were prayers and hymns.

My uncle, my dad’s oldest brother, sang a song in Dutch. He sang rather well. Then we joined him singing the same song in either English or Dutch in the most confusing mess of hymnal debauchery I’ve ever experienced.

My dad stood up after that and spoke a memorial tribute to Opoe, most of which wasn’t necessarily about my Opoe’s personality, loves, wishes or desires, but more about her major life events, getting married, how many children, when the family moved to the states, that kind of thing.

There was a sermon spoken from what was ostensibly one of Opoe’s favorites, Psalm 23. And just like almost every funeral or memorial I’ve ever been to, it became a vehicle for proselytization and not anything to do with the person’s life we were there to honor.

It was fitting that the metaphor of scared sheep that do everything their shepherd asks them to do was discussed for 30 minutes. Sheep don’t drink from choppy waters, so the shepherd leads them to still waters. He gives them calm meadows. Safe grass to lay their heads atop and to eat. He anoints their heads with stinky oils to keep the flies from laying eggs in their ears.

And despite how many years, I still have the whole thing memorized.

But isn’t that the picture of faith? I see no problem with those people who subscribe to that ideology. Seriously. If your goal is to unquestioningly declare allegiance to a shepherd, by all means, do it. It’s just not for me.

Apparently you’re either a sheep or a goat in the scenario, and Tina and I both wanted to stand up and proclaim, “We’re goats. [pointing down at selves] Goats, here!”

And at my funeral, there better be some cracked beers, some tippled tumblers and some celebratory readings of poetry I love. There better be some admiration of some of my best work. There better be stories about me. There better be memories mixed with tears and laughter. Talk about me behind my back. I’ll be dead. Gone. This is everyone’s chance to go nuts.

There better be no threat of hell and damnation. But the happiness of saying goodbye to a guy who gave as much as he could in the short time he was given.

Overall, yesterday was a good opportunity to see family gathered in one place, and do my part in celebrating Opoe’s life. I had to have my own little sermon and recognition of memories.

And it was good to at least get some hugs in with the family that I rarely see. I have some strained relationships with a few people and it was interesting to see some people shy away from me.