Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Uncle's Funeral

Some years ago the husband of my father's youngest sister passed away. She was the last living member of my father's side of the family and by marriage her husband was my uncle. I felt obligated to attend the funeral which was being held in a small town in the northern part of Bavaria, Germany.

The funeral took place on a January day with temperatures around the freezing point. There was slushy snow on the ground and a light but steady rain was falling which caused rivulets of slush and icy water to cascade down the village street. After the lengthy service in the unheated church the funeral procession headed to the local cemetery which was about a mile outside of town.

The lengthy service in the unheated church had caused me to be chilled to the bone already. Now the slow march through the slushy water in the street and the rain provided a soaking from below as well as from above. However, it was worth it for the experience.

The funeral procession was led by the priest and the altar boys, each wrapped in clear plastic rain skins remiscent of Saran Wrap, followed by a brass band that played the same funeral dirge over and over again. After that came the casket followed by the bereaved family.

The rain, the slush, the cold, and the whole atmosphere made me feel as if I were watching the whole thing from another level - I felt as if I were watching a movie. What came to mind was the funeral scene at the beginning of the movie Dr. Zhivago - unreal and yet deeply moving.

The procession thus went on for the better part of half an hour. The rain, the slush on the ground, the funeral dirge, and the slow pace of the procession made for a spectacle that I will never forget. The fortitude shown by the participants of this ceremony went beyond the call of duty. At the grave site we endured another interminably-seeming timespan listening to the graveside speeches, until the casket was lowered to it's final resting place.

The immediate family and some friends then retraced our route to one of the restaurants in the village for the obligatory food and drink, but at a much quicker pace. There the first thing I did was go to the men's room to take off my wet shoes and wet socks to dry them under the hand drier.

May my uncle rest in peace, I hope that I am not put into the frozen ground on a dismal day as he was.

How We Made Our Grandson Cry

A few weeks ago one of our daughters with her two sons, Troy age eight and Teddy age six, was visiting us. While watching TV I announced that I was a little hungry. The boys chimed in and proclaimed that they were hungry as well. Luckily another one of our daughters had left us two frozen pizzas in the freezer compartment. She, being health-conscious, had left us pizzas topped with vegetables, rather than with meat products.

Oma baked one of the pizzas and proudly presented the first slice to Troy. Troy took one look at it, shook his head, and turned away. His mother explained that Troy doesn't like vegetables on his pizza. Oma then passed the plate over to Teddy. Teddy took one look at it and burst into tears. He bawled as if he had just been accused of the biggest transgression that a six-year old could commit. He buried his face on his mother's shoulder and continued his heart-rending sobbing. We were aghast at the reaction that the well-meant offering of a slice of pizza produced. Finally Teddy's mother explained that Teddy doesn't like "green stuff" on his pizza.

I must confess that I am not particularly fond of vegetables, including "green stuff," on my pizza; but I think that Teddy has to work on his emotional responses to everyday disappointments.