I got there when people were already gathered at the burial site, a bright green hill filled with rows of tombs and their identifying plaques.
The deceased would be getting one soon too.
Prior to arriving, I had in mind that there would be a viewing of the corpse preceding the interment but there was not.
Instead, the viewing was limited to seeing the coffin, properly set up to being lowered into the pit below at a later time. Two funeral home workers stood nearby.
I met a friend whom I knew would be there, once again expressed my sympathy to the daughter of the deceased who, courteously, had come to greet us, chatted with another person who joined us and whom I hadn’t seen in years, and before long we were instructed to leave the cemetery and head out to attend the repast. That was the schedule.
Before parting, I stepped up to the coffin, stood next to it and thought about the deceased. I patted the coffin. It was metal. Shiny reddish brown.
Had the deceased heard my pat?
I had known him for many years but weren’t close friends. Still, I had enjoyed his camaraderie and was very sad to hear of his death. I had sent in a floral arrangement in his honor and there it stood.
While next to the coffin I said something to the deceased, thinking perhaps that he might take notice, that his senses were not completely gone. I imagined his face, his demeanor and thanked him for the moments we had shared.
He had been ill for a while before dying and I had tried to see him but it was not possible.
I asked my friend to take a photo of me next to the coffin.
The attendees had mostly left by now, as instructed.
I felt a bit rushed, as if wishing I be allowed to see the body being lowered into its final resting place. But that was what the family wanted.
So my friend and I headed out in our separate vehicles to join the repast.
The event was held at a community center a short distance away. It was well attended. At the front of the room, a collection of photos of the deceased and his family showed in a video, to the soulful sounds of a saxophone.
The organizer stepped up next to the screen, said a few words in the deceased’s honor and then told us of the manner in which the repast would be served. Start at the end of this row of tables, up this way, down the other and so forth, until all are served.
After the meal, a time for the sharing of remembrances would follow.
My friend and the acquaintance we had met at the burial site had got a table to ourselves.
We ate and chatted a little, not just about the deceased.
I spotted a man who looked much like the deceased, approached him and found out he was one of his several brothers. I shared some memories with him.
Right after the meal, my friend said she wanted to leave and I decided to go too. I went up to the daughter of the deceased to say goodbye, thanked her and offered my assistance, should she need it in the future.
As I made my way out I thought I was probably missing something but left anyway.
Then on the drive back I started to feel grumpy. Uncomfortable. Sad. Impotent. My deceased friend had done what he had done and now it was all over.
But there was something else that I couldn’t pin down.
Was it about me? After all, time was running out. I was getting older. Life didn’t go on and on.
The sight of the coffin, the chatting and the repast, the mournful air that hung over the whole affair had all been steps leading up to it.
I got home but I was still feeling uncomfortable, so I went out for a walk. The unease lingered.
Then I sat down to write.
At the funeral home’s entrance, I was handed a map showing me where to go. At the burial site there had been sad sentiments expressed. Memories exchanged. All nicely arranged and moving like clockwork.
On the way home I had told myself that I would not be attending any more funerals, that I had had it. Maybe I would just donate my body to science and do away with the whole ceremony.
Then I thought of the war in Ukraine.
It was now 7 weeks long and there still was no clear sense of when it would end. People were dying every day. People of all ages, men, women and children.
But had I grieved for them?
Those war victims were physically far away but my friend’s funeral had brought them much closer.
And as I wrote these words the emotions flowed and I wanted to cry for them, too, just as I had wanted to cry for my deceased friend.
My friend had died at his home, surrounded by people who loved him. He had not died violently.
And yet he reminded me of the plight of Ukraine and its countless victims.
I could not separate the emotions. They just came.
I have written many blogs about the war in Ukraine and, at times, I have been teary eyed as I wrote.
But this time, as I cried for my friend, I cried for Ukraine, too.
Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.