Because Sometimes Funeral Planning Is Funny…

Photo from FunnyCorner.net

No, I haven’t fallen off my rocker on this fine Monday morning. I’ve got my mama on my mind. You see, I gardened over the weekend, putting in about 100 daffodil bulbs. Gardening and baking are inextricably tied to my mother, since she taught me to do both.

A quick run-down about my mom, who passed away at age 65 back in January of 2004…

  • 3 words to describe her: compassionate, generous, irreverent.
  • She was completely, incredibly awesome. Really.
  • She was a tall woman (6’1″) and the first female to letter in 5 sports at her high school.
  • A nurse for 43 years, she spent much of that time in Oncology.
  • She was married to my father for less than 10 years and spent the rest of her life single.
  • Maxine cartoons remind us all of her…in our family she was known as “the Queen of the One-Liner.”

My mama was a stitch.

The night she died, we all quibbled over her Xanax stash, knowing we’d need it to get some sleep before doing all the work death involves. Any of you who’ve done this know there’s a million  important details to get through.

My brother (the Bag Whore) and I had lots of help but some of the duties just naturally fell to us. We put my mom’s purse off for a day or so, but the time came to sort through it.

When we got to her wallet, we found all these slips of paper with beautiful quotes on friendship. Of course, I cried, so my brother patted me and kept going through all the other stuff she had tucked in there.

All of a sudden, he elbows me and says, “Sis…check this out,” and hands me a stack of bright orange cards.

“What is it?” I sniffled, not reaching to take them.

“Just read it!”

I grabbed them, looked down, and burst out laughing (language alert here). In huge bold letters, they said:

If you fuck like you park,
you’ll never get it in.

“Oh my Jesus. She has a whole stash of these things?”

“Obviously she’s putting these on people’s cars when they piss her off.” My brother snatched them back. “I could use these. I’m keeping ‘em!”

When I spoke to the minister later that day, he asked if I’d made decisions about what to include in my mom’s service.

I was telling him about the beautiful messages we’d found in her wallet when my brother started yelling from down the hall. “Are you going to tell him what ELSE you found in her wallet??!”

I covered the phone and yelled back. “No I’m not telling him! Are you crazy?”

I ignored all the choice comments from my Bag Whore brother and got back on the phone with the minister, apologizing for how loud my brother was.

His first words were, “So, you’re not going to tell me??”

I blushed so hard, I thought I’d faint. “I’d rather not. There’s cursing involved.”

“Oh, come on… Your mom was a spicy lady. I’d love to hear.”

Obviously he missed her as much as we did, so I told him and he busted a gut laughing.

My aunts were horrified when I relayed the conversation. At the same time, they both wailed, “YOU TOLD THE MINISTER??!” 

They all live in a fairly small town in mid-Missouri so I apologized and promised to mind my manners from there on out.

Then we got to the funeral parlor…

Like most of the big events in my family, we all showed up to offer support. I had aunts, uncles and cousins sitting alongside my brother and I. Plus, my mom’s best friend was there. We’d just gathered for my grandmother’s service the prior year, so we assumed the place was used to the likes of us.

Obviously, the previous funeral director hadn’t shared with the new guy that we travel in packs during times of need. He looked at all 14 of us and said he’d be back with more chairs.

Once we were all seated in a circle, with my brother and I on either side of Mr. Funeral Director, we hashed out the service (which involves a lot of people shouting it out when they think of it).

When we got to the end, I said, “I know it might sound kind of morbid, but if any of you would like some of her ashes, you may have them.”

My cousin, Aaron (who was an irrepressible 30 year old at the time), asked, “So how many ashes are we talking about?”

Mr. Funeral Man looked like he’d swallowed a toad. “Um…well. Uh, they come in plastic bag inside a hard plastic case about this big by this big.” And he moved his hands to demonstrate a 10 x 14 x 4 inch bag.

My brother reared back, looking completely offended. “That’s IT?? That’s all we get!?! She was a BIG GIRL!”

The room went completely silent. 
The funeral director’s mouth opened and closed like a guppy.
Then the snickers started…

They spread around the room until we were all laughing so hard we couldn’t stop.

My uncle (who’d been in the restroom) came FLYING into the room. “You guys need to CUT IT OUT. There’s people crying and grieving out there and you’re in here laughing and carrying on.”

He turned to the funeral director and shook his hand. “Thank you for your time. We need to GO.” He sent the lot of us a stern look that promised we’d be sorry if we didn’t STOP LAUGHING.

I swear, we tried. We just couldn’t stop.

We stumbled out of the funeral home, clutching our sides and gasping for breath, running for our cars so we could collapse in private. Then we all toddled off to lunch at my mom’s favorite burger joint and laughed some more.

Here’s what I know, all these years later: My mother watched us giggle our way through most of her funeral arrangements and, wherever she was, she LOVED it. I wouldn’t go back and change any of it.

Well, except for keeping her here so she could make me laugh that hard in person.

Do you guys have funerals like ours, or are you a bit more dignified? I’m looking for some family stories in the comments! Enquiring minds always  want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

About these ads

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! My passion is finding those qualities that are unique in every person and every piece of fiction. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com). Write on!
This entry was posted in Humor, Inspiration and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Because Sometimes Funeral Planning Is Funny…

  1. Glad you could find levity to help get you through a tough time.

    Also glad you have gardening to help fill up some of your spare time when you’re not mommying, writing, working your day job, cooking, cleaning house . . . did I say spare time?

  2. O.M.G. Can I just say I LOVE your MAMA!!! Awwww…you guys must miss her terribly. She sounds like she was one hell of a lady! I laughed OUT LOUD at her personal parking tickets. And when I was reading your post about the funeral home experience, I could totally picture her smiling down on you guys – it’s exactly what she would have wanted.
    When hubby’s Mom’s passed unexpectedly in 2009, we didn’t have any chuckles like that at the funeral home but my God how we laughed when we cleaned out her apartment. It took the 3 siblings and their spouses one full week to sort through everything and get the apartment cleaned out. Although it was a PILE of work and sometimes we were desperately sad and grieving, I think it was cathartic because of all the stories we told and the laughs we enjoyed. And like you, I knew Mamma K would have been smiling down on us…she was a joyous woman who loved to laugh and have fun. So I am sure to know her children were all together and laughing in memory of her would have tickled her fancy!
    Sometimes…we need that! We need to remember and laugh…it’s what they’d want!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I agree with you, absolutely. And I should tell you that my mom would have been ALL OVER this blog thing. She’d have been at your Urban Word Wednesday and reading Tiffany White’s TV blogs. I often write for her, just to make her laugh. :-)

  3. Love it Jenny! She sounds like an awesome woman and mum. Those parking tickets are a hoot! This is a beautiful tribute to her. {hugs}

    I have an amazing fun-loving, crazy, huge family. The funerals are usually pretty dignified. The memorial services…Ha…all bets are off. Memorial services have turned into Dean Martin Roasts before, LOL. We’re usually laughing so hard we’re crying. And it’s perfect. We’re remembering them the way they should be.

    When my cousin (a ginger or red-head) passed a couple years ago, his wife went all out for the funeral by having all the family members wear huge red clown hair and/or dressing in orange. I often wonder what my cousin’s business associates thought of that!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, Raelyn, that is HILARIOUS. You and me could definitely attend funerals together without freaking each other out. One thing though, I look dreadful in orange…perhaps your cousin would have forgiven me for a purple wig?

  4. Sammi says:

    Yet, Most Moms Rock.Mine was an old school who raised 7 of us on working day-nights on:she thaught us everything from stitching to knitting to gardenning&cooking:Hard sale to raise 7 kids and 2 adults on a solo paycheck(Dads’).Please Keep her in remembrance and be Thankful.By the way..am still mapping political stuff from home(Elections maps) Holler at me on Twitter:am still following if you need any US MAP;AM OUT OF 94; But have 2010 and down to 92;GEOLETTES59@AOL.COM

  5. amyshojai says:

    Thank you for the most awesome post I’ve read in forever!

  6. Pingback: Monday Mentions: Teach Writing, Brushing Pet Teeth & Dog Show Fun! « Amy Shojai's Blog

  7. This is a great post! I think it’s so important for the funerals to reflect the person, not somebody’s idea of what the funeral “should” be. You’re not alone – our family has moments like these, too. One time the casket holder (I don’t know what it’s called) collapsed and about dumped my great-uncle’s casket into the grave head (I assume) first. If not for the pall-bearers that jumped to the rescue, I don’t know what they would have done. I have lots of stories like that. Laughter is one of the best healers. Your mom sounds like the best lady!

  8. Your mom sounds like an amazing, funny woman. I think it’s beautiful you could laugh with each other instead of only being sad. I hope my children will remember me with love and laughter too.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Sonia, of COURSE your children will remember you with love and laughter. Anyone who writes “Ode To A Taco” here on More Cowbell just can’t miss out on that. :-)

  9. What a super cool mom and you kids are a hoot! Those parking tickets sound like a fabulous idea… I might have to make up some and keep them with me. I’ve only been to two funerals, one was all sad and mopey (we were the ‘step-kids’, not ‘real’ family), but the other one was a hoot. It was for my grandpa who was mostly deaf. My grandma is completely deaf, so most of the people at the funeral were deaf, which was great because my daughter and niece kept jabbering the whole time asking why grandpa was in the box. It was open casket and they thought he was sleeping. When it came time to put him in the ground, both girls were like, ‘you’re putting grandpa in THERE?’ They were 6 & 3, so you can’t really blame them for not understanding. When everyone threw a handful of dirt on the coffin, the girls decided they’d help out and hefted huge chunks of snow on poor grandpa. I thought my grandma was going to have a heart attack right there and join grandpa, but the rest of us were laughing our butts off.

    When I go, I want people laughing and enjoying themselves, not being all sad and mopey. Celebrate the life I lived.

  10. Cate Dean says:

    Oh, Jenny – I’m right there with you. We had to do funeral arrangements for my father while he was still alive (he was in hospice). That was weird enough. Then my sister, my brother-in-law and I went to the funeral home to get everything done. When the director asked if we wanted to look at their caskets, my sister calmly replied “No, we are going to check out the new discount casket place – I think it’s called Caskets R Us.” We looked at each other and just burst out laughing. The director probably thought we were nutty. And yes, we did buy a casket from them. And no, that wasn’t the actual name of the store. I never did get it, and the store disappeared pretty quickly. That afternoon helped relieve loads of stress, and I know my father would have appreciated the humor. Oh – and I MUST make some of those parking signs – bad parking is a MAJOR pet peeve for me. Thank you for sharing.
    ~Cate

  11. Kristine Morrow says:

    Stumbled on to this blog today…. very funny stuff. In the moment of grief, if one can find any source of humor, laughter, and levity, that is the sure sign of a life that was well lived. Because if there is true love, then there has to be this sense of who they really are to come out, even in the saddest moments. For some reason always hospitals, church and ministers brings out the “funny” with my family. And at my grandmother’s funeral – this was no exception. First off, when she passed away, there was an Indian doctor (not that I am being racist at all but for my own distinction here – Indian (dot) not Indian (feather)… who was with us in the final hours….. Well my whole family are Peter Seller’s fans, and the man sounded just like the character in “The Party” – so my whole family started chanting – Birdie Num Num every time the doctor walked in our out of the room (if you don’t know you must watch the scene from the movie) … Yes, we were reduced to school kids making fun – but it helped break up the “dark-ness” that was in front of us. And then there was planning of what she would wear – and how crazy my mother and I got about what shade lipstick and nail polish she would want – to the point of making her Mary Kay rep throw a “Make-up” party just for the choosing of the said “shades of polish, and gloss”. And then there was the singing of “hymns” to choose what she would want – well the whole lot of us are tone-deaf, so needless to say this turned into Hymn-Kareoke gone awry! The minister actually begged us to stop – at which we took this as our cue to do a rap version of Amazing Grace (don’t ask) … and lastly my dog had passed around the same time as my grandmother – and we still had his ashes – so when we are at the wake – when everyone was sitting there, I chose this moment to put the ashes in the coffin with Granny! Well, a few looked at me (quiet, somber church service going on) – and whispers started flying “Kristy, what are you doing?” – from Uncle Roy (partially deaf so very loud – “I said, Kristine!!!!, What in God’s name are you putting in there” – I said “A gift” …. this quieted them down ….. – We went to the burial site – and she was put into the ground – and at the point of no return – or as I like to call it, the point where too much dirt is on her casket to have it pulled back out ! I yell out – “MY DOG – that is what I put in with her – MY DOG!!!” – Granny hated dogs…… Oooops!! Joke was on her – and she would have hated the dog, but loved the joke!!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      That Mary Kay party is hysterical. I’ve seen people get all flustered up about everything to do with the clothes and the make-up. I think they’re just so afraid the person won’t look like themselves.

  12. Jenny, your family is a hoot and I would’ve loved to have been able to meet your mom. My family loves to laugh, so inappropriate moments — or at least what other people might think are inappropriate — are common. After all, what’s life without laughter? :)

  13. Julie Glover says:

    Well, since this story has been told in public before, I guess I can tell the world on your blog. One of my best friends died of cancer a few years ago. She had her own special sayings and was very witty with words. When she died, a close friend was asked to speak at her funeral, and we gathered to help her figure out what to say. This woman asked, “So what special sayings of hers do you remember?” She hoped to share some at the funeral. The one that popped into all of our minds was an expression our dead friend used when particularly exasperated with someone’s actions: “Over my flopping-in-the-ground dead body!” We guffawed for several minutes. Decorum ruled, and she didn’t share that saying at the funeral. But I always thought that my friend would have appreciated it.

    I love your mother’s spirit! (And your preacher’s too.) Thanks for sharing this, Jenny.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Bahahaha…I think your friend would have loved it. And I’m terribly sorry that you lost her. It seems like the best of us really do go young. I know my mom did. Everyone else in her family lives well into their 80’s and 90’s.

  14. Jane Sadek says:

    May I please join your family? Mine is no fun at all. The only excitement we had was when someone refused for the step-children to be listed in the obit.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Jane, you are in the More Cowbell Posse!! Is that in the right ballpark?

      And who gives a rip if the step-children are listed. Don’t you just want to turn to these people and tell ‘em to simmer on down?

  15. Allen Klein says:

    I would love permission to re-post this on my blog. Thanks.
    Allen Klein, author of Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying

  16. Amber West says:

    I have never been to a funeral that was funny. It’s a shame.

    My father has given his share of funeral talks, and one in particular he managed to make everyone smile, even laugh a little, and completely bawl (the person who passed was leaving behind a husband and two small children).

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Well, I left out the part about how hard I had to work to keep it together at the actual funeral. They played a song for each of us (my brother and I) and then her brother-in-law sang. I thought I was gonna lose it. But, we maintained. Barely.

  17. jaysquires says:

    I managed to get through this post with tears of laughter and one wet guffaw threatening to short out my laptop (C’mon, cut me a break. Tears do splash in all directions when bouncing off the desk and, if a guffaw is sufficiently wet, it do project!). I would have loved knowing your mother — though not as one who just took her parking place! You asked for other humorous experiences of families encountering deaths and funerals. It happens I am working on a blog about my Aunt Dorothy’s death. She could be your mother’s psychological twin. I will let you know when it posts. In the meantime generous cheers for this wonderful tribute to your mother.

  18. alberta says:

    would so like one of those the bad parking signs – your mum sounds great fun – my mum had a great sense of humour and one of things we missed when my sister and I nursed her was the sound of her chuckles (she would shake and chuckle) with her PSP she lost her voice and facial expressions so she recorded her humour only in her eyes, if you looked the laughter was still there.

    Why is wrong to laugh? no disrespect just appreciation of a life.
    Everyone must laugh and wear day-glo cloloured clothes when I die:)

  19. Karen Rought says:

    Jenny, this was absolutely hilarious. Here’s my story.

    My grandmother died of esophageal cancer while I was in 8th grade. My family seems to be a bit like yours. We were all upset, of course, but when it came to spreading her ashes, we didn’t exactly do it according to protocol. She wanted her ashes to be spread out with her second husband’s (not my grandfather). She said, “one spoonful of me, one spoonful of Grover, one spoonful of me…” Instead, we returned Grover’s ashes to his family, which they appreciated very much.

    As for my grandmother, we went to the State Park and picked one of her favorite camps. It was occupied, but my Aunt (ever the ballsy one) went right up to the campers and asked if we could have a moment. They very kindly agreed and took a walk for us. Then we each took turns dumping her over the fence and into the brush below. (TOTALLY illegal, by the way.) I remember it being a happy day, not a tragic one. These things should always be like that, don’t you think?

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh. My. God. That is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day, but I can’t believe you didn’t put your granny with at least a little bit of Grover! She’s gonna kick your a$$ when you go join her in heaven. :-)

  20. Natalie Hartford's Hubby says:

    sounds like the apple didn’t fall from the tree – laughter is a great way to grieve – remembering and celebrating their spirit of humor and laughter. Sounds like an incredible woman – she’s touched my inner bastard – My next stop is making some of those cards!!!! LOL

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Hubby!!! That’s the highest of compliments to me. :-)

      She’d love that she touched your inner bastard…Tameri would like to join you in printing up a bulk package of those cards. LOL.

  21. Seriously, Jenny isn’t laughter the best medicine? Of course we’re upset, but somehow laughter helps us get through it. And Xanax!

    My family reacts to death and funerals in a similiar manner. It’s sometimes embarrassing really. I’d go into it but I think it would lose it’s charm and appeal. It’s one of those, you’s have to be there situations.

    But your mama sounds like she was a gem. What a blessing. :)

  22. It’s not a bad thing to have laughter in the most tragic of moments. While my mother was lying in bed, dying of cancer, with only days to live, my brother, sister-in-law, and I wrote sayings on a paper plate that held her morphine syringes on. Funny sayings. I can’t remember now – that was 18 years ago (I’ll have to find that plate), but something to do with Elvis, modeling (read: mottling of her skin), just stuff that made us laugh and lightened the mood despite how much it sucked to watch our mother die. There is nothing written that one has to be serious in a situation like a funeral. Someones life should be celebrated. Their demise or illness is just their way of exiting the physical plane and onto something more. Sad is okay, but laughter and smiles are better.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, Diana, I love the paper plates. I sure wish you’d kept those, so I could see a picture. :-)

      We certainly celebrated my mama, and we still do. Every year on her birthday, we send around Maxine jokes to cheer ourselves up.

  23. Allen Klein says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for your permission to repost on my blog. It is now up and running at
    http://allenklein.blogspot.com/2012/01/because-sometimes-funeral-planning-is.html

  24. I think funny moments happen during these times for a number of reasons. We’re stressed, we’re overwhelmed by grief, and usually exhausted. It’s probably some protective mechanism in our brains to give us a little relief. If that’s what happened for you at your mother’s funeral, it must have been working overtime…because that’s just hilarious!!!!

    Now I admit that most funerals I’ve been to have been mostly sad occasions. But when my father’s mother died, some of us had gone out to sit in a room away from the body, including my father and one uncle. My uncle, who lived in Florida, had driven up to Tennessee (where Dad lived), and followed him to Michigan. Apparently my uncle isn’t very used to mountains…especially in the winter. The description of the 450 mile trip was a riot, my uncle talking about Dad being a lunatic and Dad saying he could see my uncle’s white knuckles on the steering wheel when he looked in the mirror. I think they were playing it up a bit, but you’d have thought we were at a comedy club. It was actually a lot funnier being there than it is to write about. :)

  25. I love this post! I’ve never experienced a funeral like this, but I think it’s absolutely beautiful! :)

    Anyway, I dropped by because Eden Mabee mentioned you in a comment on my first ROW80 check-in a couple of days ago. I plan on attending the DFW Writers Conference in May and she said you would be there, too, so … Howdy! :)

    I’ll pop by again and see how those taxes are going for ya…

    ~Tui

  26. Oh Jenny, what a great funeral that must have been. Your family and mine sound soooo similar because laughter just happens. Why not laugh and remember?

    Three weeks ago I was at a funeral – actually the visitation which is a weird thing all by itself – when one of our elderly uncle and aunt teams started a LOUD running commentary of every neighbor, family member, and stranger who stepped into the chapel. They talked about how big one girl was or how bald a nephew had gotten or debated if a “foreign-looking” baby was adopted or not. It was hysterical, because they were completely unfiltered and very, very loud.

    Naturally, my sister-in-law and I laughed until tears came down our faces. And we were very careful to stay out of view. LOL.

  27. Hi Jenny. You mom obviously passed on her sense of humor :) I think you could make a business making “parking cards.” In England we used to have ones with mickey giving the finger. I checked my mum’s purse and I’m pretty sure she didn’t have one ready for the next errant park-er.

    Cheers!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’ll bet your mum had those thrilling Mickey cards in her sock drawer. :-)

      Yep, the apple fell right next to the tree for us, although I’m not half as funny as she was.

  28. old coot #1 says:

    Hey neice of mine. You captured the essence of your Mom. She was the big sister I never had. She saved my butt on several occations and always had a kind reminder on how not to get caught the next time. Her sense of humor was sharp and dry and if you weren’t sharp enuff, you could miss it…….until a few hours later. Loved her a bunch.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Unc…we all loved her bunches and bunches. She would have gotten a kick out of this post.

      Plus, she liked getting to have you for a younger brother. In her opinion, the in-laws were the best part of that marriage!

  29. Jenny Hansen says:

    Note to the More Cowbell Posse:

    Your comments are funny enough that someone in Australia thought they warranted their own post!
    http://celebrantsays.blogspot.com/2012/02/because-sometimes-funeral-planning-is.html

  30. pat says:

    I am currently making a FUNeral directives book for my family. Some of them get me, and some don’t. I try to find the humor in all situations. Loved your story.m

Comments are closed.