Day is Done Gone the Sun

Yesterday, while Dad and I watched the news reports of the various Memorial Day services around the country, we heard Taps being played at least once. I turned to Dad and reminded him that I wanted that song played at my funeral.

“You played it at summer camp, right?” I asked him. When he nodded yes,  I informed him that he must play it. His old trumpet is sitting in a lonely corner of our attic. I know exactly where it is. Perhaps he should get it out and make sure it still works and that he hasn’t lost his magic trumpet touch.

Dad told me he wouldn’t play his trumpet at my funeral because he did not plan on being there. (How rude!) His reasoning is that because he is older than me (just 2 ½ years), he will already be gone.

As we all know, death does not necessarily choose its victims based upon age, so it is possible he may be available that day. Now it is my hope that the reason he cannot do his own special rendition of Taps at my funeral is because he is just too old—very, very old—oe I predeceased him by just a week or too because he simply cannot hang on without me.

My backup plan, as I mentioned in Roll Your Eyes and Snicker, is that Aunt Ar and Aunt El can hum it.

Moving to Dublin

I had an eye-opening conversation with a priest recently during which I was lectured about the official policy of the Catholic Church regarding funerals. It appears that any of the funerals since 2000 (I have also seen 1989 thrown about too so I am not certain which is correct), where eulogies given in the church, were allowed because of rogue parish priests. I learned that “at funeral Masses there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.” Furthermore, secular songs or readings are also prohibited.  So I don’t know how Queen or Celine Dion music was allowed, but I am in love with the compassionate priests who allowed these songs to be played.

The purpose of the funeral mass, “contrary to common assumption, is not to celebrate the life of the deceased but to offer worship to God for Christ’s victory over death, to comfort the mourners with prayers, and to pray for the soul of the deceased. Relatives or friends who wish to speak of the deceased’s character and accomplishments can do so at a prayer service to be held in a home or funeral home or at the graveside following the rite of committal.” That is what I read and what I was told by the priest.

I truly never knew this, particularly since I have been to numerous Catholic funerals where words of comfort and perhaps a favorite song were part of the service, which helped me get through a loss of a loved one. Having gone to just two where this was not done, I saw a difference. The impersonal nature of what is the official Catholic way did not help relieve my sorrow. I left feeling empty and did not understand why it must be this way. Why did a father have to leave his daughter’s funeral upset rather than comforted because he was told a eulogy would not be permitted? I do not understand.

I was told that no one but a priest can stand at the “ambo” (pulpit), which confused me because I am positive I have witnessed non-priests standing there to give readings or make announcements such as telling me to remember to get my ashes or that the church was collecting for the bishop’s annual appeal next week.  But according to the conversation I had with the priest that is incorrect.

This particular man of God was quite adamant that the homily be only about the reading and how the life of the deceased’s followed the scripture readings, and that is it. I asked if a brief eulogy could be given after “the mass is ended, go in peace,” and I was told in no uncertain terms that it could not. Yet I also read that “the priest may allow a relative or a friend to say a few words about the deceased during the concluding rite.” (He never mentioned this.)

Under no circumstances “can the deceased person be referred to as being in heaven.” (I read this on catholic.com, and that is what the priest told me because the deceased is “not in heaven but in purgatory.”)

He suggested that the eulogy be done either at the funeral home, at the “meal of mercy” as we call it in our family, or at the gravesite.

I think we should move to the parish of Father Joe Mullan of Dublin, who said, “to forbid someone speaking seems unnecessary to me, harsh even; why not allow one of the community to speak about the deceased and the way in which their life was God’s gift to the world.? We need to move to Ireland then. But I guess if we have a President Trump, then that may be a good idea. Or I can find a rogue priest or a new religion! I have a lot of thinking to do.

Roll Your Eyes and Snicker

Roll your eyes and snicker if you must. You must know I would write about this someday, and the timing couldn’t be better. Last week I went to a family funeral, and the week before, our country saw the funeral of Nancy Reagan, which was on the anniversary of the outstanding ceremony posthumously honoring my long-deceased relative in London. My hobby is researching the dead, so with all of that, I have amassed a lot of thoughts on my own final service. (Did anyone laugh when they heard that Nancy planned her funeral?)

I have read a lot of disappointing, inaccurate, and incomplete obituaries in my time. It is crucial that it must be correct so that someone researching our tree one hundred years from now knows my maiden name, married name, name of my parents, including Grandma’s maiden name, and the name of all my children and grandchildren. Don’t omit my complete date of birth as well as the fact that I was born in Morristown, New Jersey. And please add a paragraph or two about what a fun and interesting person I was. (I will send you a few sample templates if you wish!)

Pictures in the obit are fine, but don’t use one of twenty-five year old me unless it is adjacent to a photograph of ninety-five year old me. I would be happy if you used the photo on my Library of Congress card. It’s a good alternative to any picture of me taken in the seventies.

As the family photographer, Kelly is responsible for the slide show, so start collecting the pics now. I think that if you go back to some of my earlier blog posts, you can begin to put together a nice folder of “Mommy through the years.”

Remember the music. After the funeral in London, I told Dad I thought a bagpiper adds a nice touch. “Taps “is also nice, but I don’t need both. Since I live in South Carolina, a twenty-one gun salute could easily be arranged by asking all my Second-Amendment-loving friends.

I learned there is a big difference between a professional bagpiper and a third-string bagpiper, but sometimes there is no choice. If one of the grandchildren becomes a trumpet player (we still have Dad’s old trumpet in the attic), then that gets my vote; otherwise, Aunt Ar and Aunt Ellen can hum “Taps.”

During the slide show, I have assembled a list of five songs lasting just about twenty minutes. If you must choose only one song, then it must be the Barry Manilow song, but you could dance and sing along to the rest at what Aunt Ar calls the “meal of mercy” after words. (Sorry to those who dislike Barry. It is my last wish!)

  • Can’t Smile Without You- Barry Manilow
  • We’ll Meet Again- Sinatra
  • 50 Nifty United States (This is in honor of my license plate game. Wendy, you must discuss this at my eulogy.)
  • That’s What Friends Are For- Dionne Warwick
  • God Only Knows- Beach Boys
  • (Sandstorm- Darude. If there is time, in honor of my late-found love of football.)

There must be a eulogy or a roast at the meal of mercy. There is no negotiation on this! My guests do not need to wear black, unless they don’t look good in colors. But pink, blue, green, yellow are fine. No orange. Who really looks good in orange?

I want to be cremated, and no open casket. If some of you need to peek first to ensure you are rid of me, that is okay.

I have given some thought to Aunt El’s idea of turning my remains into jewelry that you can all wear, but that is her thing. I don’t want to take that away from her. I will think about where the ashes should be sprinkled. Dad says on the golf course, but that is for him. I will let you know my preferences.

Oh, yes. The last thing is the flowers. I like lilies and daffodils. Just not roses or dandelions. But don’t spend a lot of money on that. I like basil too, and I have lots of rosemary in my back yard if money is tight the year I die. So there you go. Have I left out anything?

As an alternative to this, you can throw me a big party for my 80th birthday, and follow all the above instructions except for the obit and the cremation. Then I would get to enjoy the party!

The Main Man From Castlebar

I mentioned that I met two people during my 2014 visit to London that have made my list of the most interesting people I have met. The first was my globe-trotting friend who goes by the handle of “Bumblebee,” and the second was the Prime Minister of Ireland, known there as the Taoiseach (pronounced “tea-shock). I have tried to understand their government, particularly since they recently had their own election and no one got enough votes to be elected. But I am not trying to teach you the ins and outs of Irish politics but to explain my story of meeting the man.

The invitation was from the Mayor of Castlebar and the Prime Minister. My first thoughts were of fashion. What do we wear? I was told “business casual,” so after carefully researching what this meant in the UK, I decided on a suit with a nice scarf. For men, all that we could deduce was it meant “no tie needed”, just a sport jacket and a shirt with a collar. So Dad did not pack a tie, and he was the only man at that ceremony not in a suit with a tie. He felt awkward, but everyone was so happy to have a relative, even the distant cousin in-law, that it did not matter.

Would I meet the Prime Minister? Oh yes. In fact, we were seated in the first row of the church with him, and later at the Irish pub, at what Aunt Ar refers to as “the meal of mercy, we were seated in a roped-off area with him, several local mayors, and a prince.

When he learned where we lived, he called me “Carolina,” and when I mentioned that I was originally from New Jersey and Dad said he worked for Merck, we were surprised with his comments. He told the story of meeting the CEO of Merck, and he stated that he wanted to meet his boss. “I don’t mean Chris Christie,” he said. “I want to meet ‘The Boss’—Bruce Springsteen.

Now I have no idea if I would agree with him politically. I know only that he supported gay marriage in a Catholic country, so he can’t be all bad. And he gave me a present, so how nice was that!

So even though he may not be the most fascinating person I have met, he is the most influential in his world. I thought it was very cool! (By the way— I like the idea of bagpipes at my funeral!)At cemetery

Meal of Mercy

The “Meal of Mercy” is Aunt Arlene’s name for the luncheon after the funeral service. It can be held at the home of a close friend or family member, or at a hall or a restaurant. It is a time to share memories of the dearly departed and provide support to the family before they return to their homes, less one person. Irish wakes traditionally resembled a party more than a funeral, with eating, drinking, and laughter.

In our family you may have heard me discuss the “funeral cake.” Although it is a tasty cake which has graced a table or too on a happy occasion, I always associated this crumb cake with death. (That is why it should never be served during tailgating!)  If we would come home and see the cake sitting on the dining room table, we would ask, “Who died?”

Here is the recipe. Good for a brunch or my funeral

Funeral  Crumb Cake

1 Box Duncan Hines butter cake mix

2/3 cup oil

4 eggs slightly beaten

2/3 cup milk

Mix well and beat until smooth. Pour onto 12X18 cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

Cool slightly.

 Crumbs

2 sticks margarine and 1 stick butter- melted and cooled slightly

4 cups flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine dry ingredients and vanilla in large bowl.  Pour melted butter and margarine over and mix with spoon or fork. Spread crumbs over cake by hand, filling in all holes.

Put back in oven for 20 minutes longer. Watch to see that it doesn’t brown too quickly.  Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

If I am at least 80 when I die, you may give me an Irish Wake, sharing many of your favorite memories of me as well as the songs from my funeral playlist accompanied by a nice slideshow. No one needs to wear black unless it is accompanied by garnet. All colors are welcome with the exception of orange and purple. Sequins and sparkles are permitted. No body viewing is allowed. I find it creepy. If you want to see me, then visit me when I am around to annoy you.

And speaking of 80, since I won’t be around for the meal of mercy, perhaps you can have a “Mommy Roast,” on my eightieth birthday, where you can all sit around in front of me and tell stories so I am able to defend myself.

Stay tuned for more party ideas!