Over the years we all wind up going to weddings. Over the years, we can also wind up going to a lot of funerals. Don’t worry. I’m not going all somber and miserable on you, nor am I preparing to attend a particular funeral. The fact remains that death is a fact of life, and we should all be equally prepared to attend a funeral as a wedding.
I do have to confess an inadvertent faux pas I committed in years past. It was a period in my life when I was stony broke beyond expression, so I had very few presentable clothes in my wardrobe. And since I tend toward bright colors and dramatic details, I was mortified to find that when a friends’ father died I had nothing to wear to the funeral but a raisin-colored skirt and blouse. The color was no problem. It was somber enough and shades of purple have just as long a history in mourning as black does. No, it was the fact that both the skirt and the blouse were decorated festively with shisha mirrors.
To this day I burn with shame at the thought of those festive mirrors.
Moral of the story: always make sure there’s something in your closet you can wear to a funeral without embarrassing yourself or scandalizing others. A simple black dress, a navy suit, or something in charcoal grey and a conservative cut…any of these is fine. Just make sure they don’t have shisha mirrors as decorative details. An ounce of prevention, my superfantastic friends.
And since the time may come in any person’s life when they are called upon to host a funeral (not that I desire it for any of you, but again taking precautions is always the intelligent route), it never hurts to have a guide to how to do it well. I found just such a book recently, and I’m going to recommend it to all of you right now.
It’s called Being Dead is No Excuse: the Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral. After all, as much as I love my California home and as much of an unrepentant – nay, brazen – Yankee as I am, I have to admit that folks south of the Mason-Dixon line know how to throw an Event. And friends, a good funeral done well can be an Event.
Being Dead is No Excuse is filled with breezy – yet practical – advice on how to handle such matters as dressing for the funeral, writing condolence notes, choosing the proper hymn, and improving the inevitable deli platter presented in such a way as to leave any reader with a sense of humor doubled over and gasping for breath. It also has plenty of cautionary tales on How Not To Do Things (hint: never have someone sing the title song from Funny Girl during the service, no matter how big a Barbra Streisand fan the deceased may have been…and always remember if you’re driving the cremated remains to their final destination to keep the urn firmly closed and the windows up).
And then there’s the food. Seriously, do not wait for someone to die to try some of these recipes. From stuffed eggs (deviled to the rest of us) to Gruyere Grits to an entire chapter entitled Comfort Foods: There Is a Balm in Campbell’s Soup, you’ll find plenty of things you’ll want to eat. What’s more, the next time there’s a death, you’ll understand the importance of a good tomato aspic.
Death is a serious matter, but funerals are brimful of human foibles. Sometimes you just have to have a good laugh while learning the finer points of how to get along in the world.