A friend recently posted in his own blog a press release the Church put out about President Hinckley’s funeral, and Mormon funerals in general. It talked about how hopeful and celebratory our services were, not at all dark, somber or mournful as other funerals tend to be. I’ve been to two LDS funerals so far, and was a pallbearer in both of them. I agree, it’s a cheery event, at least from what I’ve seen.
The first was right after my mission. I had to help bury a childhood friend. He and his younger brother stayed in their grandfather’s rustic cabin one weekend. It had a coal heater and they were using it with the windows closed. The little brother succumbed in his sleep. My friend must have realized in the last moments what was happening, because they found him on the floor with a bruised face, as if he rose from bed and then fell unconscious. At their service, the bishop talked about how my friend enjoyed life. As we carried him to the hearse– other friends from my youth and myself– we were struck by how heavy he was (he was built like a linebacker). I said, “I think Clifford enjoyed life a little too much,” and we all laughed.
The second time was for my father-in-law. It was also positive and dedicatory, but not at all light. I’m sure his kids shared some fun stories amongst themselves, but I wasn’t around when they did. The mood of the service itself was sweet and the weight of his absence seemed to blanket the group.
I was– as I’m sure were all members– appreciative of the world’s salutations to President Hinckley at his passing. It seemed he made friends from the highest, farthest and most contrary figures. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that some Christian groups were there to protest Hinckley (a century ago they would have been spirited away to who-knows-what fate– ah, the salad days…) as an enabler of homosexuals. According to the demonstrators outside the LDS Conference Center, the Church doesn’t do enough to suppress homosexuality and with carried signs, accused it of supporting gays with the most debased phrasing. One sign had a picture of two compromised men with the words “fag church”– this is just how stupid and vile these folks were. When asked why they thought President Hinckley enabled homosexuals, one woman said it was because he preached the advertisement that God loves all his children, including the gay ones. That’s it? She nodded emphatically. When I read that report I trembled at the idea the woman might be a registered voter, let alone have a valid driver’s license– and she’s probably breeding. The LDS Church being a gay church might come as a surprise to gay Mormons. It’s also bewildering to me– it must have been buried somewhere in that pesky 2 pt. font contract. According to other “personal friends of the Savior” who invited themselves to the prophet’s funeral, Mormons, of course, aren’t even Christian. In other words, the same ol’ junk you see at every other arts & crafts fair.
A postscript on my friend’s funeral: My friend, Cliff, was a very uproarious, upbeat guy. He was like a bull in a china shop, but made up for it with his warmth. His kid brother, on the other hand, was quiet and less apt to “join all the clubs.” Well, at the funeral the attention was obviously slanted more towards Cliff, and I’m sure it killed their mom because Cliff used to say the brother was her favorite. A few years later I ran across the mom on the U. of U. campus where she was getting her master’s. We exchanged niceties, I inquired about her family, and I made the mistake of asking how the kid brother was. In a low voice she said, “David… Karl is dead.” I can’t tell you how flush I felt; I stammered apologies and we quickly parted. My cheeks still burn when I think about it.
I’m debating whether or not I want a Mormon funeral. They won’t be repealing the Word of Wisdom anytime soon, so I can’t have a wake (it’s a Mormon funeral with an open bar). Maybe get the Talking Heads together one last time to sing “Once in a Lifetime”. I joked with a friend the other day that I’d like to hire some Italian Catholic women to wail and throw themselves on my coffin– that’s something you don’t see at a Mormon funeral, and certainly something to talk about on the way home. I get very uncomfortable when praise is given to me in my presence, so I don’t want someone saying he was this, and he was that… Hopefully at least a few inbred protesters will show up, or a great apocalyptic event will pre-empt my concerns.
Did you ever have a girlfriend or boyfriend in your past that you totally lost track of and you wondered what became of them? I had a weird girlfriend in high school that I’ve been thinking about lately, who insisted she wasn’t– my girlfriend, that is. We went to movies, concerts, I took her to the prom. She hung out at my house one summer and we never dated anyone else. But every once in a while (usually when we were kissing) she’d say, “We’re just friends”– as if I were getting ready to drop a knee. Maybe it’s because she was LDS and I was Catholic at the time. This lasted about 18 months, and it was always a casual relationship. No expectations, no jealousies, wanna go out, ok… Then right after junior year she was suddenly sent away. Rumor had it she tried to hurt herself, but I don’t know; her family was elusive. The next time I saw her, she was living with a sister in a tiny apartment near Trolley Square and I was getting ready to do my two years in NC. We had a nice visit (she looked good) and she hugged me and apologized for acting like such a fool before. Now she wanted me, and I was over it. I felt like the reason I was suddenly desirable was because now I was an elder and going on a mission, and that secretly ticked me off. I promised to keep in touch and never did. Over the years afterward I did try to locate her, see how she was, but there’s no trace. Her family had long-since moved away, her old friends hadn’t a clue, and the trusty Internet failed me. I hope she’s well, but more importantly, I want to ask her, what were you thinking? Then again, at 16 and 17 we were all doing dumb stuff.
Maybe she’ll come wail at my funeral.