Saturday, November 03, 2007


I got back late Thursday, as planned; all the flights went smoothly, and I was very proud of myself for managing to negotiate the snarl of Southern California freeways in an unfamiliar rental car. (I was given a PT Cruiser, not a car I'd buy: it has bad visibility, and is a bit too big for comfort when parking and such.)

It was great to see my cousins again. We vowed to stay in better touch; I hope that actually happens.

The funeral was . . . intense. Scott was a Son of the American Legion and did a tremendous amount of volunteer work there, helping to raise thousands of dollars for charity, including Hurricane Katrina relief. He also did a tremendous amount of drinking there. The funeral was held at the American Legion Hall and featured an open bar: before the ceremony started, the post commander told everybody, "This is Scott's funeral. He'd want us to drink. Everybody get a drink from the bar." There were several refueling breaks during the service, which started half an hour late and went on for a good two hours. My cousin Tod gave the eulogy, early on, and warned us that the remembrances would feature adult language and content, and so they did. The mike went around the room, and people told increasingly raunchy (also loving and heartfelt and teary) stories about Scott, and after each remembrance, there was a loud toast. There were several hundred people in that room, so all of this took a while.

Since alcohol unquestionably hastened Scott's death (far too early; he was 55), I had a slightly queasy feeling about all of this. On the other hand, it was 150% the funeral he would have wanted.

My cousin Val gave one of the last remembrances, and told cheerful stories about how Scott had set fires in the house as a toddler, had gotten up each night to urinate in his mother's linen closet, and had defeated his parents' last-ditch, frantic effort to lock him in his room by carving a hole through the wall with a saw. He also liberated a neighbor's toilet by sawing it off its base; the neighbor called Scott's mom and said, somewhat testily, "Please don't give him more tools!"

He loved tools. The centerpieces at the funeral contained flowers, small American flags, and toy plastic tools from Home Depot, which the guests got to take home as favors. I'm now the proud owner of a set of black plastic pincers, in memory of Scott.

During the eulogy, Tod said, "Scott loved fiercely and lived hard," which is as fitting an epitaph as anyone could have written. Tod closed the funeral with a dirty joke, which he said his brother would have loved.

Scott's wife and two teenaged daughters were sitting in the front row during all of this, but they certainly knew him better than anyone, and they didn't look surprised by anything they heard.

I gave Tod a lift to the airport after the service. We'd expected to leave the American Legion at 4:00 or so, but at 5:30 we were still there, and my flight was at eight, and Tod wanted to stop at his sister-in-law's house to pick up Scott's tools to take home with him. And we had to drop off the car at the rental place, a distance from the airport, and take a shuttle. So the PT Cruiser went into overdrive! We got to the airport at 7:15, and I'm one of these people who prefers to arrive two hours early. But I got my flight without any trouble, and Tod and I had a good talk on the drive, so it was worth it.

I'm very glad to be home, but also tired and busy, which is why I haven't posted for the last few days.


  1. Anonymous1:36 AM

    Welcome home! I'm glad the funeral was so generally good for you and for everyone else who was there,


  2. Wow, Susan! Denial is *not* just a river in Egypt. In any case, glad you had a good trip and a safe return. The funeral story reminds me of families I have met who simply never mention any connection between the deceased's alcohol consumption and her/his death--always makes me feel a bit as if I have landed in some parallel universe.

  3. Thanks, Jean!

    Terri -- The family's very aware of the connection. I think everybody is. Scott was, too. He'd told people, "Don't feel sorry for me; I did this to myself."

    So I think the lack of explicit mention was less denial than a decision not to make the funeral about fault or guilt-mongering (especially since so many of the people who were there were Scott's drinking buddies). It was still just a bit surreal, though!

  4. Susan,

    Last week i was at the funeral/Irish wake of a friend of my partner's who died of liver failure in his early forties following a long career of heavy drinking. We, too, had an open bar and told raucous stories about Chuck. In his case, he knew how serious his liver failure was getting and was able to plan his funeral/wake, so it was very much what he wanted.

    When my best friend's father died, also from alcoholism, we all went to his watering hole and had a drink together in his honor and memory. I think having a drink for our loved ones who struggled with alcohol can be a very humanizing and understanding thing, albeit in a strange and uncomfortable sort of way.

    Anyway. All of that was just to say that i know exactly what you mean. I'm glad that you all laughed and smiled at the funeral - it seems to help the grieving. It definitely helped us to be able to do things Chuck's way, one last time.


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