I'm an asshole.
My friends and family would never say it, but I can't help believe that anyone who sees a funeral as a potential to write a "witty post" could have a very solid moral center. Not to mention I laugh at biblical puzzles.
So yeah, I'm an ass. But since you're already here, I'll have a go at it.
I made my yearly trek to church this past year. Sadly, it was to say our final goodbyes to my wife's grandfather, who had suffering through the dignity-stealing Alzheimer's disease. It was sad to see him go, but worse to see him suffer.
The funeral took place at my wife's family church -- though her mother has recently defected to a new church; a snazzy place with widescreen TV's and video kiosks (You can read all about my first/only visit right here). The church is over 100 years old and filled with very nice, well-meaning old people who say things like "have a blessed day" and throw salt over the shoulder to blind the devil (apparently a little Morton's is all you need to beat back Satan -- who knew?). Needless to say, I fit right in.
OK, a heathen I may be. But death visits us all and I've attended plenty of funerals. Still, I'm never sure what to say and when. I counted four times when the pastor (or passuh -- as he was readily reffered to) told every one to get up, but the section of pews I was in remained seated. So I was the asshole looking like slow kid in a game of duck-duck-goose.
Oh yeah, and what's the proper response to "God Bless You?" When I sneeze and someone says it, I say thank you -- you know, thanking them for acknowledging my brief discomfort. But the "God Bless You's" I was getting from the parade of sad strangers was more like a greeting (and even came with handshakes) and all my heathen ass could think to say was "Hey, how are you?" Like I bumped into them at Target. Awful.
Anyway, what really got my goat (I know you were waiting for me to get to this right?) was how this sad occassion, where family and friends are grieving and crying, was constantly barraged with warnings about hell.
Naturally, the deceased is heaven-bound -- no one wants to go to a funeral where the pastor says "Joe was great man, father and husband. Sadly, he was never baptised and is surely now fornicating with dead mules in hell." Truth be told, my wife's grandfather was pretty pious and died singing "Amazing Grace," so even by my standards, he's heavenbound. But what about the rest of us? Well as the passuh said "I know you didn't come here for this but heaven and hell are real. You have to ask yourself, if you don't go to sleep in Jesus, where will you wake up?"
(First off, sleeping IN Jesus sounds as icky as sleeping WITH Jesus. Better phrasing next time. )
And then, as the funeral is ending, he calls for anyone who wants to accept Jesus to come up to the pulpit because, you know, there isn't anything else happening -- might as well shore up some more business.
However, what struck me most about the funeral and all the speeches was this constant talk of death and the fear of it. As I gather, Christians are free from death because they will be resurrected in heaven where all the Starbucks are open 24-hours and your sides don't jiggle when you hit a bump on the road. It's called everlasting life and you only get it when you believe in the The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost. It's like Comcast's Triple Bundle Package except without HD channels or multi-room DVRS.
I understand that no one wants to die. It's like being forced to take a nap while there's strippers downstairs shooting mojito mix out of their nipples and throwing free cash at you. Life is fun and death, from where I stand, looks to really suck. But I don't know that it's anything to be afraid of. Not when everything alive has to do it. Now, I wouldn't want to be the first motherfucker to ever die because I'm sure that was pretty scary. But I'm sure no one wanted to be the first person to get on an airplane, but now we all do it.
But Christians are afraid. They're afraid because, as my wife points out, the idea of hell is real. All of their life choices could leave them with permanent sunburn (don't forget mule fornication) so those last moments are really frightening. Thankfully, I don't have that baggage. And I don't want my children to either.
I'm already going to have to take Santa away one day, no need to replace him with Satan.