August 07, 2010

Funeral Detail

I will never walk through the caulking section of Home Depot and just think of... caulk. And it is official, there are myriad uses for duct tape, uses of which you and I would never dream... story at the end of this post.

The funeral was nice, as nice as a funeral can be deemed. As I said to my one sister in law, "Father gives good Funeral." He knows our family personally, having baptized my niece, performed pre-marital counseling for my husband and me before we wed, performed First Reconciliations to all three of my boys along with First Holy Communion, and Confirmation for my eldest, the Pastor of the school when my brother in law attended.

Father is entrenched in our family. I have said often, not even being Catholic, if I needed something spiritually, it is Father I would seek.

I cried on my way down the aisle, not for sadness that my father in law no longer resides in his mortal body, but for my children who grieve at the loss. Their first cognizant loss this was... Mr. T in particular struggled. As we followed the casket, I walked behind my three sons, their father a pall bearer, and rubbed their shoulders, stroked their necks, trying to keep them all close to me, an impossibility in space now as two of them are my size are bigger.

If I could have wrapped all three of them in my arms and held them close to my chest, and carried them down the aisle, I would have. I could tell Mr. T was distraught and in turn, I felt the tears burning down my face, unable to stop the watershed... my heart breaking for my sons.

My husband eulogized his father in the most appropriate and moving way. My father in law was no saint by any stretch and there were no rose colored glasses during the eulogy. It was honest, forthright, and from the heart. He was able to keep himself composed, pushing down the grief as he spoke.

We left and went to the internment where we were greeted by the funeral detail from the United States Navy. And until then, other than walking with my grieving children, a tear not was shed from me. As I said, there is a void, I'm sad for my children, but I'm at peace with the end. So there had been no real emotion on my part during the entire ceremony...

...until we got to the military part. A special thanks to my girlfriend JD, a retired Navy Commander, who saw me lost at the mausoleum wondering what to do as I looked for my husband. Not thinking correctly, I had forgotten that as a pallbearer he was part of the assist to move the 300+ lb casket from hearse to rollaway. So there I stood, looking, wondering, when she took me by the shoulders, clarified that it was in fact my husband that was to receive the flag, and, led me to the front seats and said, "Sit" and she took care of everything else. Until she snapped me out of it... I felt bewildered.

And then the Navy brought Pop in and I started to cry, and my husband joined me, Taps was played, flag folded, and although I had cried before, the presentation to my husband... is something I will NEVER forget. The sailor who presented it... so heartfelt and warm. I thought I might cry an ocean, not for Pop leaving, but for all the Veterans and what it means to lose someone who has served our country.

I think that's what it boiled down to for me... we lost yet another American who had served their country.

And then... it was at the internment that it became funny and bizarre.

I have NO IDEA what I expected... except perhaps something similar to my mother in law's internment, where Father blessed the hole in the wall, said a few prayers and her coffin was shoved in the wall, with the marble closure placed.

We got there and the fabric 'curtain' was removed to make way for the casket. Bones immediately jumped forward so he could look in the hole to see Granny's casket. It was an urge every single adult was fighting, so many of us took him aside later and asked, "Bones! What did you see?"

His reply was, "It was too dark. It was dark in the hole. I couldn't see ANYTHING."


And father threw some water in the hole. He said a few prayers and... they put the casket on this plastic thing and pushed it in. They attached a plastic bracelet thing to the handle of the casket, saying who was inside the box.

I kept thinking, "Good idea in case we end up in a New Orleans type scenario. We'll know who's in there!"

And then...

...a gravedigger came up, knelt down at the hole, whipped out a caulking gun, placed a clear caulk in it, and squirted a thin line of caulk around the edge of the hole. He took a steel plate and pushed it in place and then caulked and recaulked, sealing said plate in place.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered, 'I'm never going to look at the caulk section of Home Depot the same... ever again.' He raised his eyebrows and said, "No kidding..."

And the guy worked and caulked and I looked around and everyone seemed a bit surprised that we were watching the ACTUAL event... when...

... when... he pulled out a roll of black duct tape and measured each piece, tearing it off, and finished sealing the steel plate in place with duct tape.

I think we all just stood there mesmerized. I can't say it was the horror of it all... but dang if there wasn't surprise everywhere. It was THE talk in EVERYONE'S car as we left.

Then the gravediggers/mausoleum fillers/caulkers/duct tapers/jack of all funerial trades put the marble slab over the hole and screwed it down.

Now my husband's theory is they really have to seal it so that there isn't any grave robbery. We decided it's much easier to break into a mausoleum than a grave.

That could be. I suspect there are some laws involved as well concerning air tight, keep the decomposing smell in etc.

Seriously, when you witness something as we did, you don't leave there saying, "That was such a great funeral..." you leave saying, "Dang. Clear caulk and black duct tape?"

As my girlfriend JD told me later, "You only need an exacto knife to escape!" Of course she and I both know it's more complicated than that, but Sheesh, that's sure what it felt like!

Anyway, a special shout out as well to Son#4's Mom, who jumped in my kitchen and helped me reheat food, and looked after the emotional well being of my boys, since she's like a second Mom.

And a special shout out to VW, who was hellbent on coming to the viewing, even though she had just had surgery. She wanted to check on my husband and my boys as well... and she showed up stoned out of her mind on some seriously good drugs. (Her husband drove her...) It was dang funny.

Which reminds me, when she came she wanted to say hello to my boys and I couldn't find them. There sat all their cousins. No Bou-Boys. I looked around, looked outside... no Bou-Boys.

They had been sitting in the back of the viewing with a deck of cards and were starting to hustle I think. Unbeknownst to me, their 2nd cousin, my husband's age, grabbed them up and took them to 7-11 for a drink and a walk.

So I'm wandering around looking and I had fully decided they had escaped and were poking around the funeral home, on a fact finding mission.

Ringo said to me later, "Mom. We're not like that. Geez." To which I replied, "Look, you weren't in the funeral home viewing area, you weren't outside, all three of you were together... what in the heck was I SUPPOSED TO THINK?"

I figured they were looking for bodies.

They're all creeped out by the thought.

Tomorrow's post: The viewing/closed casket and... more concrete questions. I know you can hardly wait...

Posted by Boudicca at August 7, 2010 12:16 PM

I have to say, like you, it was the military portions of my FIL's and my father's funerals that got me. There are many wonderful people who go the extra mile to ensure veterans are duly honored. For that matter it makes me cry just to think about it.

And OMG - all the funerals I've been to, we did the graveside service then left. They did the rest after we were gone... I never thought anyone jumped in to do all that while the crowd was still there... caulk and duct tape... OMG...

Posted by: Teresa at August 7, 2010 10:53 PM

My uncle died about 4 years ago. It was my first mausoleum graveside service. There was going to be a military flyover by a vintage WWII plane, but it was running late. We were all mulling around the outdoor mausoleum, when a man told us we would all have to step back. The man used a scissor lift that hoisted the casket up to the fourth level. They threw in some ball bearings that make the casket slide in better (I guesss), and then they rolled the casket into the vault. Afterward, they closed the cover to the vault. They got out the biggest caulk gun I'd ever seen and caulked the cover. Then they lowered the scissor lift and the workers left, on to the next funeral. The flyover happened a few minutes later.

What was the topic at the funeral luncheon: the guy with the caulk gun. Hilarious.

Posted by: Jerry in Indiana at August 7, 2010 10:54 PM

Yaa, I was pretty loopey... wish I had made it to the funeral but really didn't want to bring the boys and had no way to get someone to watch them. Then again, I was still 'out of it' on Friday!

Posted by: vwbug at August 8, 2010 06:11 AM

That was the big discussion as well, what do they do on the upper levels??? That would have just been a riot if we'd had to witness the lift as well.

They put the casket on this big plastic tray. It reminded me of something we use every day or close to it, and for the life of me I've not been able to remember. I remember looking at it thinking, "Hunh. They make them that size too?"

Posted by: Bou at August 8, 2010 08:35 AM

Very interesting- mausoleum vault sealing procedures as catharsis for the bereaved. There's a research subject for ya.

Posted by: Sean at August 8, 2010 09:48 AM

One funeral I went to nearly took an extra body to its grave...the funeral was finished, but the people were filing between the family sitting in the chairs and the casket which was on the railings over the grave itself. As a mother was talking to the family, her lively seven-year old son was dancing around...and yes, his foot slipped under the casket's ruffle and his leg up to his hip went into the grave...someone caught him before he could go further. I could imagine his nightmares that night. And as the mom, I would have been saying, "SEE? I TOLD you to be still and stay by me!!!"

Posted by: Mrs. Who at August 8, 2010 10:12 AM