Saturday, October 14, 2006

Electric Funeral Splits a Sabbath Morn

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." I Corinthians 15:52 (NIV)

For days I had known that Saturday, my Sabbath day, was also Scottie's Funeral. All week long I felt unsure about whether to go only for the visitation on Friday night, attend the service at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, but not the farewell get-together at a place known as Georgie's Alibi. I prayed and reflected on what would be the proper thing to do. If the tables had been turned would it have been acceptable for someone to skip out on my last day above-ground? When the decisive moment arrived whether to make the left turn that would take me to Sabbath School or continue going straight ahead for three more blocks to the funeral parlor, the old song from my youth, Electric Funeral, briefly flickered across my mind and I wondered what an electric funeral would be like. A few moments later I was being ushered in to where the service was being held. I arrived half an hour late. I noticed some folks from work. I assumed the music playing was some new age type of hymn. I had no idea what religious beliefs Scottie had, or didn't have. When I looked at the front of the room at the casket, I noticed a large wooden cross. The song playing over the sound system was from Elton John's Blue Moves. It seemed elegiac in a way that music from the early 70s can sound when contrasted to the contemporary rock heard on modern radio stations. Afterwards, Elton John's Goodbye Norma Jean, or is it Candle in the Wind?, his pean to Marilyn Monroe made, at least for me, for a very bittersweet moment. I had to hold back a tear when the phrase "She lived her life like a candle in the wind" was sung.

The minister said a few words, and I do mean few, in remembrance of Scottie's life. He asked that all who wished would accompany him in saying the Lord's prayer. We then passed by the casket and I briefly said to myself, or to him, "Scottie, I hope I see you again someday." The minister then said that the family wanted to spend the last half hour of the service saying their private farewells. He reminded everyone that the Alibi's event would be at 11:30, a few blocks down the street.

I had paid my respects to Scottie so I headed for church and caught the fading moments of Sabbath school. After sitting through the endless announcement period, the pre-doxology as well as the doxology gratified me. Hymns and music in general was what I enjoyed most in church. I felt very dissatisfied though, since I had spoken very little about Scottie with anyone at the funeral. They ushered us out so quickly. I turned to a Cuban lady who I always see in prayer meetings on Wednesdays and gave her my offering envelope, telling her that I had to go to a funeral.

I was the first to arrive at Georgie's Alibi and I ran into an octogenarian neighbor from my apartment building who said that beside his home, this was the only other place in which he felt safe. He asked me if I was there for the catered affair for the guy who died of AIDS. I told him I was and did he know him? He said he didn't but that his boyfriend's cousin had also recently died of AIDS. I wished him well and waited by others who had started to arrive.

Once inside I was able to meet mostly people from work and reminisce about Scottie and his life. I also saw someone I had only seen in pictures, his former partner, Kevin. I told him that I was sorry for his loss. He said that it had come as a surprise, as he didn't seem to be that sick.

This kind of event with food, and beverages and music playing can often dampen the reflectiveness of the occasion. I did my best to ask people I encountered about their memories of Scottie. Agnes, another neighbor of mine said she had gotten to know both Scottie and Kevin at their annual Christmas party that they invited everybody to. These were wonderful events as well as lavish ones. I told her I had not known Scottie well enough to have been invited. I had known him only through visits to libraries where he was stationed at, or sometimes standing outside of restaurants or boutiques in Wilton Manors, Florida.

The last thing I heard someone say at the actual service was "Scottie was such a lovable bear of a man," referring to his large, bearded appearance. I smiled at Mimi and concurred with her as we both went our separate ways.

I'm not 100% sure if I was supposed to have attended that post funeral service brunch with it's multiple video screens with 80s music videos flickering as the conversaton ebbed and flowed on a Sabbath morning, but I'm glad I went. It allowed me to say goodbye to a man that always was more interested in saying hello to me that I was to him. He smiled even when I didn't. He mentioned common acquaintances even when I tried to minimize them. Whenever he saw me he came to greet me and to make pleasant conversation. If only for his affability and natural good cheer, I felt I owed it to him to be at both the funeral service and the brunch at Georgie's Alibi, a place I hope I never have the need to visit again.

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