Paying My Respects

My mother called me and asked me to come to a funeral.  This man that she knew had died, some friend of hers from church.  I remembered seeing him there when I was young, and I remembered noticing how much older he had gotten every time that I had seen him again and how he had served as a benchmark of the years, and that was all.  I reluctantly agreed to go.  I stood in my upstairs hallway and hands appeared to tie the black tie around my neck and to slip the black suit jacket over my shoulders, and finally someone led me down to the car waiting out in the driveway.  The streets were empty and the raindrops tapped against the wet pavement.

I slipped in through some back door of the funeral home, and I walked down a long dim corridor where someone was lighting tapers along the wall every few feet.  I heard organ music.  I found the room with the flowers around the casket and the mourners standing around in small groups, talking.  My mother was there with a few of my aunts.  I passed them with a nod and I went to look down at the man in the casket.  We both had on the same black suit and tie.  I looked at the man’s bald head and his little white scruff of a beard, and I recognized him once again.  I wanted to tell my mother and my aunts that I had seen the man just the day before.  We had passed in the woods at a spot where the path turned.  He had waved a hand at me and I had waved a hand at him, and that was it.  We had both went on without a word.  But now it turned out that he had died three days ago, and there had been two days preparing the service.  All the things that I could have asked him, if only I’d known him.    


5 thoughts on “Paying My Respects

  1. I dig the mystique behind this. It certainly didn’t go where I thought it would, which is a good thing. I mean, it’s always weird – almost awkward – attending the funeral of someone you didn’t know, isn’t it?


    1. Yes, definitely awkward. Trying to think whether I’ve really ever been in that predicament. I’ve been to a fair share of funerals, but I think I’ve always known the person at least to some degree.

      I can imagine situations where you’re dating someone and you go to a funeral for a relative of theirs who you’ve literally never met. I’m sure it’s hard to know what to say in those situations.
      You’re like a bystander to other people’s grief.


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