Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy at a Funeral

Yet again I do not feel what the others feel when the others feel it. At my cousin's daughter's funeral, a girl the same age as my son, I was not feeling that bizarre apprehension others seem to feel when it easily could have been them. I know I was supposed to feel as if a bullet had just gone whizzing by my head. And I told someone that. My son, his daughter, a car, an accident, 911, brain dead, organ donation, funeral, distraught teenagers and their first brush with their own mortality, a wailing in the aisles of the cinderblock church. Cheerleaders and stoners weeping in the pews. The youngish priest built like a linebacker purposefully bringing his brow into the tented triangle of sorrow. His face relaxing as he told charming anecdotes of Darla, pinching up again to swing the censer.
I knew how it was assumed I'd feel, but I didn't feel that. I stood, I sat, I knelt, I listened to the mass, I sang if I could follow the tune. I was there, wasn't I? I did my best to witness and fulfill the procedures required. But in the middle of the funeral, a wave of well-being surged through my body. And it wasn't just the animal thrill of being alive in the presence of death. I've felt that. This was something deeper and more significant. A welling up from some place in my core that told me this: if, by some chance, the same horror would happen to me, I'm ready. I'm living my best life even now. I have few regrets and none serious. I do think I've done my best, and though I haven't always gotten the results I'd been hoping for, in other ways I have led a charmed and generously appointed life. Death won't be able to cheat me of that. I stood in that church flushed with pleasure.
Of course, the only reason for my happiness at a funeral that others might be able to understand would be some twisted and evil kind of delight that a worst case scenario has occurred and reconfirmed my negative and hateful cynicism. But it's not that. I hope this essay communicates that.