Just got back from my grandmother's funeral. Now, many of you have probably inferred that I believe religion has no place in the world. I would like to revise that: Religion has no place in the world. Especially not at funerals.
Some of you are probably formulating a lot of guesses as to which angle I'm going to move at. No, Fred Phelps didn't show up (Though it would have been in his character for my grandfather's: Marine). No, I'm not going deep into one of the familiar comments about the afterlife being escapism. It's true it's escapism. It'd be nice to know we get a few 1-Ups, but there's still no evidence. That's all I'm saying on that aspect for now.
The real fucking outrage is that my grandmother was a footnote for most of the funeral. At the burial site, the reverend went on about how we don't see everything, generic metaphors about the ocean and the horizon and crap like that. After the procession moved to the church, she picked up on the evangelism, and repeatedly mentioned how some positive trait my grandmother had reminded her of Jesus. She kept doing it, one of the last ones ended up provoking an audible annoyed sigh from me. Only thing that otherwise kept me quiet was that I didn't want to make social pariahs of my parents. (To all the atheists out there who can out themselves in meatspace, kudos. I still need more time.) At least I minimized the motions I went through. I didn't sing any of the pointless hymns. I didn't recite the Psalm that the reverend said reminded her of my grandmother's love of science, which struck me less as "look at all the nifty things our deity made" and more "Oh, lord, who art so big." Listen, yes, Batman is awesome. But if by some chance, I'm the one speaking at your funeral, you won't hear me going on and on about him. He's not the dear friend in the casket we're all going to miss.
The part where I really had to bite my tongue was when she said she could listen to her stories all day. So shut the fuck up and get someone to tell us a couple of her stories! She apparently had one of the genealogy-related books my grandmother wrote about the people the various local streets are named after and some of their amusing tales. I need to read the series, sometime. She had it right in her hands. Here's another idea: Get some of her friends and family who won't treat this like an Amway session to go up and share some memories. A funeral is about sharing and remembering the positive impact a person had on all our lives.
Instead, the whole first two-thirds was wasted on very tangentally related hymns, Bible passages, and so forth. That's what I found the saddest part of the day: My grandmother's funeral was shaping up to be a paint-by-numbers affair. Eventually, she got around to covering some of my grandmother's various accomplishments: Two master's degrees, certification in respiratory care, English teacher, writer, genealogy buff. More of that was needed.
After we listened to some overbearing woman singing the Lord's Prayer (very good voice, but she put too much force into it), everyone got up and started working their way back. One of the many people I didn't recognize came up to my parents and said, "I remember once when she taught high school English, she promised her students that if everyone passed, she would get up onto her desk and dance. She did."
THAT is the sort of thing I want to hear about at a funeral.