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The Funeral Lady

rhspic_funeral.jpgOut in the sanctuary sits the funeral lady in her fake fur coat and garish head scarf. She is old and I only see her at funerals. In the last three years I've been here she's been at almost every funeral I've presided over. She's not a member of the church. I've heard her name, but it has slipped from memory. She always lets me know how much the deceased meant to her and how she knew the whole family, but that's an act. She's just the funeral lady. Like a grim reaper with bad fashion sense I can trust her to show up on the scene.

I'm not sure what her motivation is. Maybe it's the food, as funerals are always at least decently catered affairs. Maybe it's the company. Maybe it's a way of showing respect to the dead, even the anonymous dead. Maybe it's just something for an old woman to do. Maybe she just likes the words of solace and hope associated with funerals. Maybe I'll never know.

I imagine her sitting at home with cats mewling as she drinks her instant coffee and scans the obituaries to plan her social agenda for the week. On her formica kitchen table are little porcelain salt and pepper shakers in the shape of a little boy and a little girl, chipped here and there revealing the white interior. On a corner shelf, among painted plates on display, is a picture of her in her younger years full of hope and plans for the future. She sits, lithe and young, on the hood of a car her skirt pulled over her knees. Next to her sits her husband-to-be back in the day when love and lust meant the same thing. Full of hormones they pause to pose for the camera, holding hands, placing their libidos in check for a brief instant as the shutter clicks and captures the image. Later there will be tears and shouting, but that moment of happiness and chemistry is captured for all time.

What does she think about as she sits in the pew? Does she worry about being found out as a funeral crasher? Does she concoct stories of how she knew the deceased spinning plausible lies in her head? Does she convince herself that she really knew these people that she mourns now? Or do these countless funerals stand in for her own loss? What is her own personal liturgy as she hears Amazing Grace sung for the ten thousandth time? What do the well worn words of the twenty third psalm mean to her as she recites them again and again?

She is a mystery. She is the funeral lady.


Makes me think of the rent a mourners that sometimes are available for Buddhist services. Let me see here ...

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