Best. Funeral. Ever.
I bumped into an old friend the other day, a co-worker from an organization I used to work with a number of years ago. The obvious pleasantries about work and family were exchanged as we caught up on each others lives. It was mostly small talk not worth writing about here, but we did reminisce a little about her mother’s passing almost 15 years ago now. Oh how we laughed about her mother and her funeral. That’s right, we laughed, and it was a good laugh. Let me tell you about it.
“Chick” was Nancy’s mother. She was not a particularly religious woman. In fact, she would be considered a non-practicing Catholic; the kind that occasionally sets foot in Church, maybe on Christmas or Easter. Nonetheless, Chick was one grand old lady. She had a terrific sense of humor and her laugh was simply infectious. It was impossible to be around her and not laugh along with her. She could lampoon with the best of them.
Her last few years were difficult ones with regard to her health. She spent a lot of time in the hospital and in extended nursing home care after several surgeries. Despite obvious pain, nothing dampened that wild spirit or that sense of humor. She was genuinely happy to see her family and friends, and was always quick to disarm everyone from feeling any sort of pity, making them laugh instead. Even the nursing staff enjoyed being around her. She was fun personified.
When she passed, we were all saddened. I remember Nancy’s daughter telling me not to despair however; Chick would not want anyone being sad about her parting this life. She gave me a wink and a big smile and said to make sure we went to the funeral. I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than she seemed almost gleeful about the event.
So there we sat, in the chapel of the funeral home. One of Chick’s last wishes was to have the service performed by a priest who also had a spot on the local radio show that Chick always listened to. The two had become good friends in her final days. He honored that wish and was present for the service. Midway through the service, at 9:30 am, right in the middle of the psalm response it happened…
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!” A rooster crow sounded throughout the chapel. The reading stopped and everyone looked around, confused and bewildered. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!” again. It was coming from the casket! Then a voice: “It is 9:30… Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!” The crowing and time announcement was coming from the casket and it continued for a full minute. At first everyone tried to suppress the smiles, but one by one, people began to chuckle, and once it began, it just grew until everyone erupted and roared with laughter. We all laughed, and laughed heartily until we shed a few tears. You see, Chick’s other last wish was to be buried with her blind husband’s talking-and-crowing-wristwatch, with the alarm set to go off in the middle of the funeral service. I guess she just couldn’t resist the opportunity to make everyone laugh one last time in her presence.
As I sit here and think about Chick, it occurs to me that, although she is long gone, she still is able to make me smile and laugh. Now that’s a way to make a memorable exit.