I was fortunate to see Olivia deBelle Byrd speak at the Decatur Book Festival in 2010 and I just loved listening to her stories. She is very charming and funny and she graciously agreed to guest post on the blog today! Please welcome her!
SOUTHERN FUNERALS OR HE JUST WOKE UP DEAD
Funerals in the South are a serious business. They entail prodigious amounts of food, flowers, and family and no shortage of humorous tales. My friend from the charming town of Eufaula, Alabama, tells of going to visit her elderly mother each morning, where the first thing her mother does is peruse the obituaries. Her mother mentioned an acquaintance that had died with the explanation, “He just woke up dead.” It reminded me of the time I called my niece, who also resides in a small Alabama town. When I inquired how things were she replied, “I’ve never seen anything like it, Aunt Olivia. People are dying who have never died before!”
As Southern women we do tend to obsess about our own funerals no matter how hale and hearty we are. We are just sure our children are not going to get it right. My friend, Louise, was telling me about a conversation she had with her daughter who lives up North. Apparently this daughter has lived up North too long. Louise was reminding her about some funeral detail she desired when her daughter said, “Mother, why don’t you just get cremated? It is very common up North.”
“Honey,” Louise exclaimed, “have you lost your mind? This is the one time in my life when I will be all laid out and every friend I have will come to see me. Each hair will be in place, it won’t matter whether my dress will zip, and there won’t be a chip on my nail polish—plus my stomach will be flat because I will be lying down.”
“Louise,” I said, “you’re the only person I know who can make an open casket sound like a fashion show!”
Speaking of fashion shows, my friend Lou Ellen had a stroke of bad luck. When her grandmother died, Lou Ellen did not have an appropriate dress in her closet so she went out and purchased the perfect funeral dress. As it turned out, it was a mite too perfect. When Lou Ellen viewed the open casket, there was Granny wearing the exact same dress. There was not a Southern woman in that funeral home who could come up with the correct compliment for that one.
Not long ago, I committed a terrible faux pas. Louise called to tell me about our mutual friend, Anna Mae, whose mother-in-law had passed away. Not listening as well as I should, I processed it as Anna Mae’s mother dying. Being the efficient Southern Belle that I am, I immediately wrote a very nice condolence note. I even mentioned how sweet and beautiful her mother looked the last time we visited and that would be my last remembrance of her.
I soon discovered my error albeit too late to retrieve the errant condolence note. I had no choice but to call Anna Mae and admit my error. I told her that when she received my very nice note to just strike out her mother’s name and insert her mother-in-law’s. I also mentioned, since her mother is eighty-six years old, she might not want to tell her that she had died.
Just the other day, Louise was lamenting that it is too bad we have to die to look our best. “Look at it this way, Louise,” I replied, “it beats being cremated.”
Thank you for stopping by with a laugh for the day! I just pray I never show up at a funeral wearing the same dress as the deceased.
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