Funerals and Friendly Skies

Now, please bear with me here. I have two stories to tell you. One kind of begat the other. And though Gina came first, the email I received from my friend Sue later the same day is what inspired today’s post. Here’s how it started:

The hilarious author and speaker Gina Barreca’s weekly column in the Hartford Courant really tickled my funny bone this week. Click here to read “No Funeral For Me. Nobody Likes Them.”

Okay. Did you read Gina’s story? Good. Now let’s hear from my buddy, Sue Brooks:

On a recent flight returning to her home near San Francisco from a business meeting in Mississippi, Sue sat behind a woman who placed a backpack in the overhead bin . . .

“It was a typical crowded flight,” Sue said. “The smallest flight attendant I have ever seen, stood on the seats and started tugging and moving luggage to squeeze another bag in. She started to pull at the backpack. The woman seemed alarmed and wanted to hold it.

“The flight attendant continued to tug and pull until the woman burst out, ’Be careful, my mother’s in there!’”

I don’t know how (or if) Sue was able to keep a straight face. “You gotta love travel!” she says.

Referring back to Gina’s essay, I’d like to imagine that the woman on Sue’s plane was bringing her mother’s ashes to sprinkle from the Golden Gate Bridge, or something equally exciting.

That makes me wonder:  What odd objects have you seen people bring on planes, or perhaps that you even carried on yourself?

Panda on plane

Now, bringing a panda on board is unexpected! Thanks to the funny site Pleated-Jeans for this pic.

Do you have a funny story to share about funerals or surprising carry-on “luggage?” I can’t think right now of a crazy carry-on story, but I’ll start you off with one about my dad’s funeral.

My father’s last wishes were precise and very traditional. The family greeted people paying their respects during calling hours in the evening, followed by a full Catholic funeral mass the next morning. It was difficult and sorrowful for all who loved this great man. It’s hard to believe it will be eight years this month.

Anyway, Dad wanted to be cremated, but in accordance with the preference of the Catholic Church, his body (in a casket, of course) was present for the funeral mass and the cremation took place afterward.

At one point in the service, the retired parish priest who had known my parents for years stood near the casket flinging drops of holy water from a heavy, ornate metal scepter onto the casket. In the midst of this blessing ritual, the scepter slipped out of his hands and bonked loudly onto the wood above Dad’s forehead. The elderly priest was no doubt abashed by the slip but quickly regaining his composure, quipped, “Well, if that doesn’t wake Bob up, nothing will!”

I’ll never forget the moment of laughter that ensued and how I thought at the time, how much my father would have loved the joke. Laughter is always beautiful, in my book.

And if you’re wondering, Bob’s ashes are all over the place. He’s at his two favorite golf courses in Ohio and Florida. He’s swimming with the fishes in Lake Erie. He’s enjoying lovely Utah with my sister; and the last precious bit is in a little box waiting to keep Mom company at her final resting place one day.

So – do you have a funny or interesting story regarding a funeral or the execution of someone’s last wishes? Crazy things you’ve seen carried onto your flight?

Readers’ choice – would love to hear from you!

7 responses to “Funerals and Friendly Skies

  1. I don’t have any stories about odd things on planes, but funerals have been an important ritual in my family, and I was included in them from the time I was very young. I have found them to be an important time of closure and celebration of the life of the deceased. Our family does a lot of laughing, crying, and reconnecting with loved ones we may not have seen for a long time. Usually there is a buffet lunch provided by the church ladies that is to die for. Oops! Bad choice of words!

  2. My dear, sweet, hilarious friend and partner in crime Debbie took a very sharp and unexpected turn for the worse in her cancer journey two days before my wedding. I was devastated when she passed away while I was on my honeymoon. Heartsick at missing her funeral, I planned to call her husband Jim before the funeral that morning to tell him how much I was thinking of him. The funeral had been scheduled for later that day, but to be sure I didn’t interrupt any last minute arrangements that morning, I purposely called their home phone, and not Jim’s cell. I had no way of knowing that the funeral time had been moved up and that Jim had forwarded calls on the home phone to his cell, AND that he had forgotten to put his cell phone on mute when he arrived at the church. Bottom line, just as the funeral mass started, as Jim and the rest of the family was solemnly proceeding down the middle aisle of the church behind Debbie’s casket, his cell phone rang loud and clear and he looked down to see it was me calling. He couldn’t help laughing and said, “It’s Deb’s best friend Lee and she always has to get the last word in!” He said it was the bright spot they needed.

    • What a great story, Lee! First – so sorry you lost your dear friend. I struggle with my own beliefs, but I sure do love the idea that just maybe she was somewhere joining in the laughter.

  3. OMG! Love that idea (in theory)! At the very least, maybe your funeral procession song could be “Build me Up, Buttercup” or something else off the wall.

  4. I have no funny funeral or plane stories. All of the family funerals in my family are boring, stodgy affairs. So much so that after my mom’s funeral in October I wrote a post about planning my own funeral so it won’t be as boring as all of the other family funerals. I tell people I want to be stuffed and mounted. They won’t do it.

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