Not many places where it's safe for me to rant about this, so here I am. Please excuse and forgive my rant in advance.

We're getting ready for my Dad's funeral friday. Visitation is thursday.

It's a small midwestern town. I hated living there. Leaving for military service was the most freeing experience of my young life. THe place is a dismal small minded town that time forgot. On my many, many visits to my parents over the years, I've bypassed dealing with any people other than my parents, and have been more than happy to do so. My memories growing up here are of bullies, hypocrites, bigots, racists and violent homophobes, overbearing small minded assholes who have no problems imposing their will on others. A favorite book, growing up, was Spoon River Anthology, a depressing compliation from a similar, nearby place. My possibly inaccurate memory is that people there were happy to die, in order to get out of town, or generally lived depressing, meaningless lives:


"The Hill"
Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,
The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?
All, all are sleeping on the hill.
One passed in a fever,
One was burned in a mine,
One was killed in a brawl,
One died in a jail,
One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife—
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,
The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?—
All, all are sleeping on the hill.
One died in shameful child-birth,
One of a thwarted love,
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
One of a broken pride, in the search for heart’s desire;
One after life in far-away London and Paris
Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag—
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily,
And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton,
And Major Walker who had talked
With venerable men of the revolution?—
All, all are sleeping on the hill.
They brought them dead sons from the war,
And daughters whom life had crushed,
And their children fatherless, crying—
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where is Old Fiddler Jones
Who played with life all his ninety years,
Braving the sleet with bared breast,
Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,
Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary’s Grove,
Of what Abe Lincoln said
One time at Springfield.

Since there are others involved, Im going with the flow to avoid looking bad. I haven't worn a suit in 20 years. Now I have to buy a suit that I may never wear again. What a waste - people are struggling to get by, and I have to buy senseless expensive clothing to avoid appearing disrespectful. A last minute airline ticket and motel costs aren't enough to show respect, I have to shell out for a suit.

I don't beleive in the whole pall bearer thing. It's a manipulative tradition designed to demonstrate reverence for the dead. Now I'll be a pall bearer along with a bunch of Masons I've probably never met, and a neighbor who was a friend to my dad. "It's expected". I'll look bad to them if I don't. In a hospital, they have gurneys for carrying patients, and they're not in steel and wood coffins that strain the back. My back is not so good.

Then there's visitation. Visitation for what? A closed multi-thousand dollar coffin. He was so emaciated before he died, even while alive he was looking like an Egyptian mummy. This is not an exaggeration. What are they going to do, show his mummy? Pile on make-up? I asked for a closed casket, but I don't know yet if that will happen. This is incredibly grotesque, macabre.

He was a Mason, so apparently they'll have a ceremony for him as well. I've never been too sure what Masons do, some sort of pseudoreligious mumbo jumbo. My great aunt used to claim that Masons and Knights of Columbus were sort of warring mobs, alternating killing one another. I don't know.

I already put up with the hospice chaplain telling me about going over scripture with my Dad. Then there will be the funeral. I will not get into any discussions, I just want minimal intrusion into my personal grief then to get out of there.

I've been saying a very, very, long and painful goodby in the most meaningful way possible, while he was still alive. I experienced the loss vividly with every visit. These people are into the ceremony and drama, the social conformity, busybodies and overbearing religionists. I just want to get it over with. Distant relatives who I haven't seen in years, wanting to pay hundreds for flowers for the casket - to be used once then discarded. If they don't, then they'll look bad because other people will have flowers there. I suggested giving to the local library, where he was a board member for many years, and were he spent an evening each week browsing through the books. But social pressures demand the fucking flowers.

I will not fake prayer. It's a form of mental rape, forcing me to pretend to believe something I think is evil. I will not bow my head when they pray. I will not argue religion. I will not be forced to practice meaningless ritual, beyond the pall bearer thing.

Or will I.

OK, just a rant. I loved my Dad, none of this has anything to do with that. Nothing to be done but go through the motions and avoid interacting with those people as much as possible, remember that it will all soon be over. Then get back on the plane and get 2,000 miles between me and those people again. The best view of the place was always in the rear view mirror.

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Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on August 26, 2010 at 6:58pm
I think my dad joined for social and business reasons. Actually, i couldn't find anything on their page tying them to religion. His dad was a Lion, too. I've thought about joining the Rotary Club, but I don't know much about them. The only VSO (veterans service organization) that wholeheartedly welcomed women and atheists when I got out of the Air Force in 1996 was the Disabled American Veterans. Although, the VFW and the Legion now claim to welcome both, I doubt I'll ever join either. A)I don't drink or play Bingo and B)a leopard doesn't change it's spots. The DAV is the only VSO I belong to. I do like the idea of joining a service organization though. One day, I would like to dedicate a lot more of my time helping my fellow veterans. I just wish these service organizations weren't so religion oriented.
Comment by sacha on August 21, 2010 at 8:31pm
I'm happy it's over and it wasn't as bad as you expected.

I try to always think the worst, and either I'm not disappointed or I am pleasantly surprised. Truly this has worked for me.

I found this quote a few years ago:

"The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." -George F. Will

I'm happy you have your dad's ring and your sanity, and that you remember him the way you want to, not what others dictate.

and I'm glad you are headed home where you can be exactly who you are, and appreciated for being just that.
Comment by Daniel W on August 21, 2010 at 3:54pm
Grace, that sounds wonderful.

I can't say that I've ever thought much about Masonic Temple but having a "brotherhood" or "sisterhood" (eastern star) appeals to me. Even if the ritual is just ritual, there is something to be said for it. Or Lions, as in your Dad's case, or "Oddfellows Lodge", or "Moose Lodge", or "Modern Woodmen" or Knights of Columbus, or Elks Lodge - there must be many many of these. Maybe it's time to start "Assembly of Reason Lodge"?
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on August 20, 2010 at 10:09pm
I'm glad it wasn't so bad. My mother in law wears her father's Masonic ring and she doesn't even qualify for the Masons. There must be something about becoming an older man that drives men to join the Masons, or in my Dad's case, the Lions club. My dad had minimal flowers and instead most people gave to the local homeless shelter or Catholic charities in his name.
Comment by Daniel W on August 20, 2010 at 9:02pm
All of your comments and support have been so helpful. Here's how things went-

Once I was here physically, and talked in person to the funeral people, we dispensed with the sport jacket/suit and just went with a tie.

There were minimal flowers, and the librarian came to the visitation and thanked us for directing contribution to the local library instead. She knew my dad and we discussed memories of him. She told me that the library did actually receive some contributions in his name.

I did not close my eyes or bow my head in prayer. No one seemed to notice.

The Masonic ceremony was touching and interesting. There was a little talk of god but not a lot. I didn't realize he was so active in the Masons, he never discussed it at home, didn't ask me to join. Maybe it was a way to get out of the house and family? Now I have his Masonic ring - it's interesting, I might wear it to keep part of hime close to me, I hope no one thinks I'm impersonating a Mason. Dr. Kellie, you are right, the particular ones here didn't know him, but they stated they knew OF him. The aprons were interesting too.

The hardest part of all was spending time with my Mom, whose dementia is so profound she hasn't said anything to me in 2 years. The nurses told me that she sang a little song last week, all of the words were "go to hell, go to hell, go to hell, go to hell" but the nurse told me it was a very cute tune.

Being able to vent and anticipate, even if over-anticipate, on here was SO helpful. Knowing that all of you understand the issues means a lot to me. Thanks.
Comment by dr kellie on August 20, 2010 at 4:00pm
The flowers, the "sympathy," the expense, and the entire circus that a funeral is make me sick. And the praying. And I am quite certain your stomach will turn a little when you are forced to endure the ridiculous mason bullshit. They wear aprons and and do some strange ritual that makes it seem like they had some close bond with your deceased loved one, when clearly, they didn't even know him (unless your father was really into it).

Good for you for not praying. Mental rape is a great way to express how you feel about it. When people get to praying, my mind starts screaming so loud in my head that I can't even hear it.

I imagine you are in the thick of it all as I write this. Take care and know that it will be over soon.
Comment by Cobbie Tigerpaw on August 20, 2010 at 3:50pm
I will not fake prayer. It's a form of mental rape, forcing me to pretend to believe something I think is evil. I will not bow my head when they pray. wow what a way to put it!
Condolences about your dad's death. It's good you sent some money to the library. Just give it time, things will get a little better..I know nothing a person can say can help you with your grief...but we do care.

I remember someone saying "oh the religious thing is more for the family.." and I wouldn't want them having an xian burial for me and to put me in a religious/church cemetery but knowing my luck it will happen to me. Wonder how many people have crosses and jesuses on their grave and they were actually atheist.
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on August 19, 2010 at 12:41am
They wear silly little aprons and read from a book. My grandpa was a Mason. Keep the ring. It is a nice keepstake. When you wear it, think of your dad.
Comment by Daniel W on August 18, 2010 at 5:40pm
Thanks again. Sacha you are a woman after my own heart! Thank you Mike, you know the area well. Grace, thanks for the well wishes.

Couple of updates:
I won't be a pall bearer. I feel better, much better about that.
I won't have to wear a suit, will just dress in dress shirt and tie. One less thing to be insincere about.
The money will go to library not so much for flowers. Glad for that, regardless of local pressures. I feel much, much better about that.

Now I'm curious about the Masonic service. I have his Mason ring now too - not sure what to do with that.

Thank Jobs for Ipods. I plugged mine into the rental car and amped up the volume with Lily Allen's "Fuck you" (a favorite on Nexus, Youtube it) as well as Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" and especially Mark Weigle's "Buddy Got Gut" (no Youtube avail, but lyrics like "If Buddy got gut, I'll give up my butt" and "I like big beefy paws, and a gut like Santa Clause" not not not safe for work. SO liberating and satisfying to play in this town at high volume.
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on August 18, 2010 at 1:24pm
Have a safe trip. I'm sure it will mean a lot to your family having you there. ((hugs))


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