The things on my mind today are about dying.
Someone we knew, a man our age, died this week. We went to his viewing today. There were HUNDREDS of people there and it was only one of four viewing times. He was well-known and well-liked. Actually, he was one of our county commissioners, on the ballot for re-election in the upcoming mid-term a little more than a week away, had won the primary..... but he would have been well-known and well-liked even if he hadn't been commissioner. He was commissioner BECAUSE he was well-known and well-liked.
Anyway, I was seeing all those visitors, and hearing what people were saying to each other about how well they'd liked Denny. I remembered a memorial tribute I'd heard last month after a friend of my mother's died. And I'm thinking....... the people who died aren't here to see how many people come, or hear the nice things that are said about how much they were valued.
Why don't we say those things to people while they're alive? Why don't we have a party, so everyone who knows them and likes them can come?
Maybe there's somehow less risk in saying the nice things after someone has died. We don't have to risk awkwardness.... "You, know, Denny, you're a really great guy, a really good egg. It's a privilege to know you. Whenever you say you'll see to something, I know it's as good as done. You're a man to appreciate." How do you respond to something like that? How do you say it? Why is it easier to say it after the appreciated person is gone?
My mother is turning 90 in April. I'm throwing a shinding and advertising it in the paper. Also in April, my husband is turning 60, but he says he doesn't want a shindig, just our kids and grandkids.
Back to the viewing....among the hundreds of people at the funeral parlor were many that we've known for years and years, as well as many we both felt we should know but couldn't place. We knew them in some long-ago context and now we were out of that context and we've changed and they've changed and it was like maybe remembering someone from a previous life. A woman walked past. She saw me and did a double take. I did a double take. We both said, "HIIIIIII!!!!! How nice to SEE you!! It's been probably 20 years!!" We embraced. I have no idea who she was. She didn't say my name so I suspect she couldn't remember who I was either.
I have a proposal: At my funeral, and at any I'm in charge of before then, like my mother's, I want to have, beside any door where people might be coming in, a box of those name stickers that say, "Hello! I'm......" and pens so that people can write their names and slap them on. Along with a sign reminding everyone to use the stickers, and to include on them how they know the deceased and/or family. It would help everyone. "Hello! I'm Ellie Hamilton.... longtime friend, kids the same ages." "Hello! I'm Clamity Jane, Bill's cousin." You could walk right up to strangers who share your shock, sadness, and memories and call them by name and know who they are and have the ice already broken. Someone you should know, about whom you'd draw a blank, has a name tag and you know immediately, "Of course!!" No awkward moments. It would help family members greet all the visitors: My husband and grown children would have no idea who some of the people are who might come to my funeral. Cheat-sheet name stickers would help them out a lot.
I'm starting a new trend in funeral etiquette, right here, right now. Name stickers.