Cappy Hall Rearick
A Proper Send-Off
"They say such nice things about people at their funerals.
It makes me sad that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days." — Garrison Keiller
When our friend Len died, Dee and I found ourselves responsible for organizing his memorial arrangements.
Len had requested that his ashes be scattered in a peaceful wooded area near the park where he walked every morning. What a surprise that was! Len was not a woodsy person, a hunter or environmentalist. He was a sixty-year-old, rather prissy artist who drew and painted whimsy. A woodsy landscape person? Nuh-uh.
Len had moved to a small Virginia town into a duplex apartment with the Guido family living in the other half. That was good for all concerned, at least for a short while. Soon, Len was forced to admit that he was up the proverbial creek, having chosen to live next door to the Neighbors from Hell.
Michael Guido was a fallen from grace minister. As soon as he started sermonizing on reincarnation and the laws of the universe, his healthy flock, not having the slightest idea what he was talking about, booted him and his Buddha Banter right out the back door. He then got a job teaching at the high school, which should give us pause.
Guido is tall and was once skinny. On the day he got canned from the church, he and his Buddha belly began to wander around sipping White Zin and having one-way conversations with his "guides." His hands and arms are huge, both of which fly around as if in tandem.
Dee made a mega-mistake when she invited him to "do" the memorial service for our friend, Len. The good ex-preacher arrived dressed in a white cassock over a purple vestment embroidered with a large yellow butterfly smack in the middle.
"I designed it myself," he bragged. The sleeves were edged with four rows of glittering ribbon in every possible color. When I say that the serious expression he wore on his face was incongruous with the garb he wore, I ain't just whistling Dixie.
Fully costumed and loving every minute of it, he began the service by spreading those ludicrous bat-wing sleeves. "Celebrate," his voice thundered through the small sanctuary, jolting the Library League Ladies out of their tranquil pose. Only recently had they elected Len as treasurer so it is safe to assume their total surprise at getting up close and personal with a drag queen preacher.
Len was not a devout sort, so both Dee and I thought the service should be quietly dignified rather than steeped in old time religion. Well, that didn't happen.
Ignoring our non-religious request, the FFP (Fallen Fundamentalist Preacher) delivered his sermon while spreading those bat wing sleeves of his and shouting, "CELEBRATE!" every whipstitch as if to insure that nobody would nod off. Afterwards, he made us stand and sing ALL SIX verses of "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder," but I quit singing after the second verse. Dee was bawling and carrying on while I prayed God would stop me from hurling the hymn book at the FFP's head.
Next came a solo by a tearful young man who sang, "His Eye is on the Sparrow." When that song is sung at a funeral for somebody like Miz Lillian, it’s probably perfect. But Len would have had another heart attack. Neither climbing Jacob's ladder nor sailing through the air in sparrow mode were ever on his afterlife agenda.
My blood pressure climbed to new heights when the FFP eulogized my friend. He grinned, I groaned and Dee sobbed. With each word, Dee, a Yankee through and through, cried harder. The lips on the Library League Ladies were drawn up so tight they looked like decimal points.
"Good ol' Len," the FFP began, "is here today. Yessiree. He says there's a time to live and a time to die."
That wasn't Len, that was Solomon. Shoot, had Len been there in spirit or otherwise, I'm pretty sure he would not have been quoting scripture. He'd have been stomping his feet and demanding a Congressional hearing.
Later, Dee and I discussed the possibility of sending the winged preacher to the crematoria instead of Len. But since neither of us could figure out what we would do with Len's body in the meantime, we decided to settle for a martini and a heart-felt toast to our dear departed friend.
If Len had to climb the rungs of Jacob’s ladder, then we would stand at the bottom, hold the ladder steady and give him a proper send-off.
© March, 2010 by Cappy Hall Rearick