"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Monday, 27 April 2015

We Are Gathered...

 Part W of the A-Z Challenge

I wrote this in January after a friend of mine died in tragic circumstances.

Man, this is is a nice turnout. There are people lining up out the door. Surely this proves that I was loved. I could never be truly sure when I was alive. Although some of these people I don't even recognize. Who's that old lady talking to Mum? Must be some distant relative. She's not here because she loved me, she's here out of obligation. Just stay home, lady.

A man in a suit walks up to the lectern.
'Ladies and gentleman, we are gathered here today to mourn the sudden, tragic passing of Michael George D'Agostino. My name is Alfred and I run this funeral home. In sending Michael off to the next life, we must not dwell on the sadness of his passing, but in the joy he brought to others in his life. For it's in these memories that Michael's spirit lives on.'

Okay, who invited this guy to talk? What possible comfort could they get from these generic words from a total stranger? I do appreciate the effort, but you clearly didn't know me at all. Look, I can see the sheet you're reading from - it's dated 1998 and it's got blank spaces wherever my name's meant to go! Just let someone else host the service, I did know a lot of people in showbiz after all. Someone from Quiz Meisters could have hosted it. Or someone from the radio station. Someone who's close enough to know me well, but not so close that they'd be too choked up to do it.

Alfred finishes his generic speech.
'We'd like to thank Michael's family for putting together the mural you see before you.' He motions towards my casket where there are a couple of pictures in frames and a cork board covered in photographs.

I've got mixed feelings about the mural. I like the big frame with the picture of Superman in it. I love the Buttercup logo my friends made up. But the photographs? I've always told you I've got way too many to just pick a few. Did you even realize you could get my whole photo collection off my hard drive? You could have just taken the hard drive, plugged it into a computer and put up a slide show of them all. Much easier.

'And now, we'd like to invite Michael's mother Connie up to the stand to talk about the impact Michael made on all of our lives.'

I was wondering who would come up to talk. Everyone gets so choked up when they have to speak at a funeral. I thought all the women closest to me would be too emotional to do it and none of the men would be emotionally open enough.

Mum arrives at the stand.
'When I was figuring out what to write here, I thought back to some of the moments I shared with Michael. I'll never forget the day he was born. We took him home from the hospital, and it was the first time I ever thought to myself "we're a family".'

Oh geez, it's like these guys don't know me at all! When it comes to my death, the one thing I've always been adamant about is that I want people to laugh at my funeral. Tell some funny stories! Play Highway to Hell over the PA! I spent my whole life trying to make people laugh. I know I wasn't always successful, but I gave it a bloody good go! I'm not worth crying over.

'...Michael... you were the most loving, caring, happiest, strongest person I know. You taught me how to be happy when it should have been the other way ar- God, I'm sorry... Give me a minute.'

Mum... please don't cry. Shit, you're going to make me start crying too. You were doing so well. I know you can finish, you've got it in you. You've done harder things than this. That's what I've always admired about you.

(Through heavy tears) 'When it should have been the other way around. Michael, you were taken from us far too soon. But I know you're up in heaven now, making God laugh just like you did for us down here.'

She collapses back into her seat and Alfred returns. Sarah and Kelsey get up and step out of the room. Sarah's in muffled hysterics and trying to be there for her is clearly causing Kelsey a lot of pain.

Sarah... I'm so sorry.

'And now, a representative of his friends, the um... Buttercup...Gang will say a few words.
Jerida takes the stage. She's been crying too, but she's collected herself for this moment. She places her notes down and takes a deep, calming breath.
'Michael was an amazing person. He had many great qualities, as well as many frustrating ones.

Huh?

'We all know he was competitive, but I experienced it first-hand. I still have the mark from when he tried to race a little girl around the playground. He was trying so hard to win, he forgot I was there and stomped on my foot.'
(The gathered crowd laughs)
'He was stubborn, too. I mean, is it really that hard to wear a button-up shirt to a formal event?'
(The crowd laughs again)
'I mean, I know how you feel. I would sometimes rather wear my track pants to work. But that's just life.'
(More laughter)
'But Michael had the most amazing ability to recognize his flaws and work on them. He was always trying to make himself a better person, and in the short time I knew him, I saw him grow so much. I can't imagine what he would have achieved if he'd been able to live the rest of his life. Michael loved his friends and family and was always there for them. One time when we were dating, he agreed to come to Cobar New South Wales with me for my Grandad's funeral. He had to fly in on his own because of work, so I booked his tickets and me and my family left a few days before him. The night before the funeral, I got a call from him, asking when I'd booked the flight for. I said "8pm" and he said "That's great, because the booking info here says 8am."'
'I was like "Oh my God, I'm so sorry!" and he said "Well, I'm off to go and pack..."'
'He arrived in Broken Hill the next morning and had to figure out how to spend the day there before catching an overnight bus to Cobar. When he arrived the next morning, I handed him his clothes and he changed into them and headed straight to the funeral. The whole time, he didn't complain once. He was just happy to be able to be there for me in a time of need. I think that's what we're going to miss most about him. Thank you.'

And that, Jerida... That's why I've always loved you in some way or other. You found a way to make people smile like I wanted without going over the top and offending my family like I would have if I were in charge. Look, even Christina's stopped crying at the front here and is giggling to herself. Jerida, we weren't partners for very long, nor should we have been. But I certainly consider you my soulmate.

Alfred wraps up proceedings and six people come to carry out the casket - Dad, my uncle, Dimi, Kelsey, Mitchell and Christina. Everyone heads to the cemetery where they say their final goodbye. The tears are back. People throw things into the grave, things that either symbolize the relationship they had with me or things that sum up my personality. Half of the items are related to Superman. I chuckle to myself.

I must have talked about Superman way too much. They think it's all I care about. But that's okay. What I've seen here today has shown me that everything I made of myself in life was worth it. I recovered from a very poor start and managed to build something that I'm very proud to see today. I learned how to really love and to allow others to love me. And I'll watch over them as they go forth, change the world and enrich people's lives. But not right now, God's waiting for me to tell him that story about the time I cracked my jaw on a trampoline. Wait 'til these guys see what God is, they were all way, way off...

24 comments:

  1. Interesting to think of a funeral from the deceased point of view. I think I'll not be concerned about what they say about me after I'm gone.

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    1. I'll probably be fascinated by it and there will be a lot that I like and a lot that I don't like.

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  2. Well, at least there wasn't a mention of 'underoos'. I got that from a friend's funeral a couple of years back.

    We should celebrate. After all it is... fun-er-al...

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    1. Underoos? Did your friend run over a kangaroo?

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  3. I hope my funeral will not be held for quite some time yet, and I don't like thinking about it much. This was interesting to read though. Very unique perspective!

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    1. That's fair enough. I tend to think about it whenever I go to someone else's funeral.

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  4. Well, it's your funeral, Michael (LOL). Seriously, though, there's nothing worse than a funeral where the speaker(s) clearly have no personal knowledge of the deceased. When my cousin passed away at 25, it ticked me off that the clergyman had no clue about the person my cousin was. So not right. I'm sure that when your time comes, and not too soon, I hope, there will be people like Jerida at the mic, willing to share all those funny stories about you.

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    1. I hope so too :) But there was one think the funeral director in this story got right - I hope they celebrate my life rather than mourn my death.

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    2. That's absolutely the focus every funeral should have.

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  5. Someone that knows the person that died should read the eulogy. The trouble is...is that they are usually too choked up to do so. :(

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    1. Yeah that's a problem I had to work around when writing this. I asked Mum about it later and she said she just wouldn't be able to get up and read. It would probably be Dad.

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  6. What a beautiful piece, Michael. And a powerful exercise, too... At some corporate-culture event or another, they had us picture our funeral and imagine who'd be present and what they'd say, the underlying message being "what do you want to be remembered for when you're gone". It's amazing how something so simple can bring perspective, isn't it? Really enjoyed this.
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

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    1. Thanks Guilie. I love that exercise - anything that gets you thinking about life in a new and interesting way is something worth exploring.

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  7. I hate the socializing that goes on at a funeral. There's something off about sitting around talking about your job or whatever, to people you haven't seen in years, while someone you love or cared about is right there in the coffin. I don't like it. And lunch or dinner with a big group of people after... I think that's weird too. I know most people don't.

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    1. I think that's just a feeling of social obligation. We don't want to seem like we don't want the other person to think we're snubbing them, so we make the awkward small talk :P

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  8. I just hope someone laughs at my funeral.

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    1. I'll make sure to bring the seltzer bottle ;)

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  9. I wonder if we can ever really imagine the impact of our passing. Like you didn't even factor in how much you'd be missed in blogland. There are so many people we touch daily.

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    1. Oh you're right! Yeah, that was just a big guess at how it would go down :P

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  10. >>... "Wait 'til these guys see what God is, they were all way, way off..."

    OK, I'll bite...

    What is God?

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. That sentence was mainly an indictment on people who claim they do know what God is and what he wants for us. The truth is none of us have ANY clue, and all we can do is figure out what makes the most sense to us.

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    2. MICHAEL ~
      Please let me play "devil's advocate" with you a little bit. Not to embarrass you nor to even dispute with you, but merely to perhaps sharpen your ability at objective thinking.

      I'm 55 now, but when I was your age - and I wish I were again, by the way - I would have appreciated someone challenging many of the things I said, solely to channel my thinking into a sharper point. I used to make a lot of bold statements, thinking I knew the truth - or large chunks of it, anyway. But as the decades wore on, I gradually became aware of how little I really did know, and with a lot of reading and a lot of serious thinking and discussions with knowledgeable folks, I began to learn how to think more objectively and to cut through much of the misdirection I was once a victim of.

      So... my follow-up question is...

      >>... "people who claim they do know what God is and what he wants for us. The truth is none of us have ANY clue..."

      OK, you just made a very bold statement, and WITHIN it, you yourself claimed to know "the truth". And you said "the truth" is that not one person ("none of us") has "ANY clue" what God is and what God wants from us.

      So, how did you arrive at this knowledge of "the truth"? In other words, how do you know that what you said is true? You don't know every person, and so you don't know what incredible spiritual experiences some people have had with God or the Supernatural.

      So, don't you think it's a bit presumptuous on your part to make the statement you did? Unless, of course, you can actually prove or have powerful reason to believe that "non of us have ANY clue" about what God might be or what He might want from us.

      Noah didn't have "ANY clue"?
      Moses didn't have "ANY clue"?
      Saint Paul didn't have "ANY clue"?
      Mother Teresa didn't have "ANY clue"?

      What I'm getting at is that words have meanings and must be used carefully. Making too bold a statement (without evidence to back it up) can cause problems for people (unless the intent was merely a joke). We need to be careful about painting with too broad of a brush and making "all-inclusive" statements if we want to be respected by those who hear or read our words.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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  11. Fair enough, thanks for the heads-up :)

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  12. Yer a good man, MICHAEL!!!

    ~ D-FensDogG

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