The Do's and Don't's of Funeral Behavior
This Is A Sensitive Subject.
I just wanted to forewarn you. The subject
of funerals has always been sensitive,
stuffy, and sometimes-outdated. This hub
is being written from MY PERSONAL
experiences at funerals that I encounted
many of the occurances mentioned in this
story. And to give YOU a 'heads-up' if you
are going to attend a funeral in the future.
I want to be completely-serious with you
for a moment. And talk to you about a very-sensitive subject: Funerals. Yes, funerals. I didn't want to venture into the area of life and death, but I have read many of the other hubber's pieces--poems, stories, and personal views on the subject of death as well as funerals.
This, friends, is not my feeble, guinea-pig attempt to write a story about a funeral. I just want to share with you, a few personal experiences that I've had over the years when I attended the funerals of loved ones, family members, and close friends. That's it. No fanfare. No big band music. No angels flying around the room sprinkling 'happy dust' on you as you read this story.
Where I live, in the deep south, you would think that time and manners should have joined hand-in-hand to bring people I know into the 21st Century in how to act. How not to act. How to behave and be respectable at the most-sensitive event in a person's life: A funeral. But sadly, and keep in mind, this is not aimed at any group of people in the United States, but the ones who live in the deep south with me.
My first time to attend a funeral was by sheer-force. By my mother. I was eleven. Scared is not the word. But the deceased was her oldest brother, Adell Lee, whom she loved dearly, so she "suggested" that I help with the role of being a pallbearer. We all know what a pallbearer does at funerals. They help carry the casket from the hearse inside the church and when the service is over, they help carry the casket back to the hearse. You see why I was scared? I was not your top-of-the-line 'most-popular kid on the block." I was timid. Shy. Obscure. I didn't want anything to do with public events much less a funeral, but since it was my mom, how could I say no?
Uncle Adell's service went off without a bobble. Hitch. Mistake. The older pallbearers sensed how scared I was, so they covered my nervousness with their big-hearted and strong hands and arms to carry the casket from the church. Inside I was very sad at mom losing her older brother. They were very close. I guess at age eleven, it began to dawn on me that the world was not made for me. And God, our Creator, did not seek my advice in how to make the sun, moon, or planets. All the lessons in my life, mostly, I've learned the hard way. The harsh way. Because they stick with a boy. Man. Girl. Woman. That's life.
As Time Went On
and I grew older, I was a pallbearer at my dad's parents and aunt. Still, I was very uncomfortable about being an arm's length away from death. I've never, as a child, teenager, or even adult, had a healthy love for death. Has anyone? Oh, I did graduate with a petite girl named, Janet Armstrong, (her real name), whom I learned in our senior year that Janet loved to attend funerals. This fact was so unusual that our American Democracy teacher, the now-late Ruble Shotts made it a class topic for discussion--as Janet, with her stone-face stood in front of the class and delivered one of the most raging, colorful, dead-on correct oral essays about her love to attend funerals. Mr. Shotts and the entire class applauded after she had finished. To my knowledge, Janet is the person I know with 'this kind' of love.
My mom and dad, I know now, had their hands full with raising me. I came along late in their lives and I was, at most, a 'tough nut to crack,' but I did learn a few things from my parents. Things such as: being kind to old people; being nice to animals; (my mom taught me this one) always respect ALL girls and women, for they are special creations of God; social manners, including how to behave in a regular worship service, wedding and the ultimate test of social training: Funeral behavior.
It was, and I'm not pulling punches, tough. Shoe leather would be easier to chew than the part about funeral behavior. I wished many times that my parents had just forgotten that part of my childhood raising, and taught me how to tear down a 283 cubic inch, small block Chevy motor. Yeah, man. That's what I'm talking about. Grease. Oil. Grime. Fun times. No special clothing or behavior required.
But mom and dad didn't. They taught me all of the things to do and not do at their areas of social importance which were: school, church, weddings, at neighbor's homes, social get-togethers at Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July, on the job (when I grew up) and the " mother of all grim social locales: Funerals. My parents didn't leave one manner untaught. They were always "all or nothing," in how they raised my sister and me.
So with that being said, here is a list of . . .
Things You Do Not Do At Funerals
- Eat snacks in the audience on the evening or night of the wake. Personally, I've sat next to adults snacking out on potato chips, sandwiches, appetizer crackers like nothing was wrong. And when other grieving friends or family of the deceased would look at them, they simply grinned, wiped their mouths on their sleeves, and continued to eat.
- Talk loud to people near the casket area. To me, loud talk belongs in a barroom, inside your home, a football game, but not a funeral. I've also seen this in action. A few good ol' boys get together in the foyer of the funeral home on night of visitation and act like they were in O'Chanusey's Bar and Grill--mouthing jokes and laughing like horses. I know. God sees our hearts. But is it impossible for (this) type of people to just be civil? Respectful? Maybe one time?
- Talk to friends on cell phones and the conversation be heard by the grieving family and friends. And I witnessed this and it was not teenage girls and boys, but again, a non-caring adult who seemingly "just had to" yak with a friend. Disrespectful is the way I describe this guy's actions. Couldn't he just have stepped outside of the funeral home to talk about his business clients?
- Smoking cigarettes near the entrance to the funeral home chapel. I do not want to offend. Step on toes. Make anyone angry, but the local funeral home where I live, has a designated smoking area for all tobacco-users to congregate, smoke, talk and fill the area with second-hand smoke. Is this acceptable funeral behavior? I should say no and I am not a graduate of the Amy Vanderbilt School of Manners. I just know that the smell of cigarettes, and cigars is bad enough, but at a funeral home?
- While in-line to pay last respects to the deceased is one place that I witnessed a man and his wife waltz-in ahead of the already-formed line of mourners and butt-ahead of everyone. This man and wife were former owners of a clothing store in Hamilton, Alabama, but that disrespectful, rude gesture was not called for. And it was very unappreciated.
- Children should not be allowed to run like wild gorillas in the jungle at a funeral visitation. Again, this local funeral home in Hamilton, Alabama, doesn't set policy against wee ones yelling, screaming and running in and out of the chapel while the deceased's friends and family are recalling fond memories of their loved one. I helped to teach all three of my grandkids to sit with me or their parents. And if they needed to use the restroom, to politely and quietly ask me or their parents to accompany them. And NOT run wild for this action is not acceptable.
These Are Things That You Do At Funerals
EXERCISE RESPECT, HONOR, DIGNITY AND SELF-CONTROL Keep in mind that the funeral is not about you, but the loved ones and friends of the one whom has passed away. You are not there to entertain, but serve in a quiet, comforting manner.
EAT A FULL-MEAL before you arrive at the wake. This may be the best advice I can give you. Some places that conduct funerals, offer snacks for family and friends, but please use moderation. Only get a few things to eat that will satisfy your hunger. Do not keep going back time and time again. Unless you want to be thought of as a 'disrespectful glutton.'
DRESS APPROPRIATELY you are not at the beach with your frat buddies. Dress in a formal suit and tie. And of course, shower, please. I know that for some, this is a nuisance, but there again, "whom is the funeral for?" Right. Not you. So do your best to look respectful and do NOT strut into the chapel. This is not a place for your male bravado. But a time to pay your last respects to a person whom has left this life to enter eternal rest. And a time for you and I, to offer ourselves and services to the wounded family members and friends.
UNLESS YOU HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION, AND MUST TALK LOUD speak softly to people who are at the wake or funeral. If you 'must' bellow your words, go outside. Go to your car. Take the person or persons you want to bellow your complaint about our government and sit in your car until your need of loud-talking has subsided.
BE COURTEOUS to everyone. Be as civil, nice, and polite as humanly possible. This is a rough time for this grieving family. They will appreciate your mannerable image that you project.
BE A GOOD LISTENER in case some of the grieving family needs to talk. I had much rather be a good listener, than a know-it-all and try to solve their pain of losing a loved one with advice I got from Doctor(s) Oz and Phil.
OFFER TO DO THINGS FOR THE FAMILY such as preparing a plate of food for them. Getting them a more-comfortable chair. A soothing soda. Anything to be of service. And above all, do not make a show of your concern as to say, "Look at what "I'm" doing for this hurting family," this is not only a rude gesture, but very unacceptable. And vulgar.
This is an incomplete list of the do's and don't's of funeral behavior, but I think that maybe I've covered the basics. The fundamentals that will help you to cope with the loss of the loved one at the funeral while being of service and a good friend to his or her surviving family and friends.
OH, ONE MORE HIGHLY-IMPORTANT THING . . .
"Please, I beg of you, single guys! DO NOT smoothly try to get pretty girl's phone numbers while you are at any funeral. This is lower than the snacker, joker, and the butt-ahead in line couple."
And I thank you for reading this.