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Saturday, March 4, 2023

 Planning a funeral is a fun as, well, planning for a funeral.

Family did that today in Chippewa Falls, at the same funerial joint we used for my dad 38 years ago.

I arrived early enough to have my beloved hot beef at the West Hill Bar, where I bartended 30 years ago when it was Jackie's Bar. One of dozens of jobs that saw me through college. The bar, in all its iterations, has served the same hot beef recipe going back at least until the 1950s.

One slow afternoon, I was bartending when an older gentleman walked in and asked if we still served hot beefs like we did in 1955. Without a word, I made him a sandwich and poured a beer. "That's on me," I said. He took a hefty bite, half the huge sandwich. "Still the same hot beef," he said after a swig of Leinenkugels. "Probably still the same cow," I said in my best bartender repartee. 

Mine today was still the same. Beer was the same.

But mom was gone.

She used to love those hot beefs with a huge slice of onion and a pickle spear.

Mom hated the fake pageantry of American funerals. She was the one who led me to "The Loved One," an Evelyn Waugh book mocking the United States for its death worship. Great book. It was made into a 1965 movie that might be one of the more disturbing films I've seen. And I watched "Eraserhead."

The cost of buying the coffin and the vault came to nearly $10,000.

These are items that no one will ever see again.

Imagine a memorial Snickers bar, encrusted in gold and the buried where no one could see it.

That would sound stupid.

But in America, for a funeral, this is a perfectly normal thing.

We buy hundreds of dollars of flowers that we'll throw away in a couple days.  We pay for various print outs and messages, the vast majority of which will end up in garbages.

We do these things because it's expected.

Mom hated that kind of crap.

"You don't have obligations," she told me for decades. "You are obliged to do nothing."

Of course, mom was hardcore. As a native Canadian, she was not of the American tradition. As a student of philosophy (she called herself a Thomist -- a follower of St. Thomas Aquinas) and as a mother of four boys in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, she was a realist.

I remember when died dad in 1984. The funeral director was pitching a $12,000 coffin because dad had been a county judge and it "befitted" him. We had no money. Our family priest, Father Jablonski prompted my mom to ask for a coffin the next step up from cheap. $300. That's what we bought.

We are done with the planning.

Next is the doing.

I'll report.

Peace unto the Ukraine and peace and a wonderful life unto you my brothers and sisters.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like a wise and colorful character. Totally agree about the expense and waste of funerals...