Friday, September 5, 2014

Can we talk?

Oh come now, you know that everyone is going to make use of that iconic line – and that is just the way the late Joan Rivers would want it.

The world lost another comedic great this week so shortly after the loss of Robin Williams, but honoring these two who brought so much laughter into our world means we must keep laughing. Joan Rivers left her wishes for all to know and see in her book, I Hate Everyone...Starting with Me; her wish list is making the rounds and already bringing chuckles and laughter Joan Rivers’ Funeral Wish List: Beyonce Hair, A Valentino Gown And Sobbing Meryl Streep (from MTV News).

Funerals should be a celebration of the person’s life and all that they gave us. While we all “hope” we will be missed, we don’t want our loved ones to be left bereft and inconsolable, I sure as heck don’t want to be the reason my family and friends are miserable. I think everyone should leave a wish list for their funerals and the top of that list should include some way to make their families smile and return to their lives… and some laughter wouldn’t be so terrible either.

My husband and I lost our parents (all 4) within a relatively short period of time. My dad was first, my father-in-law just a mere 18 days later. In planning my father’s funeral service we hired a “Rent-a-Rabbi”. The man was eloquent and showed the grieving family the best of compassion and kindness - we were very happy with the selection. My dad was involved in the community and my parents had a lot of friends so the room was overflowing. The rabbi began his sermon with the words “And when I die…” and went on to talk about how the large throng of mourners was a tribute to the life my dad lived. It was a beautiful sermon with a moving eulogy and our family felt that the rabbi did my father a great honor.
Less than three weeks later after my father-in-law passed away, my mother-in-law liked what she had seen and hired the same rabbi to perform the service; living in the same community as my parents, the funeral home was the same as well. Again, there was a very impressive turnout of folks. The rabbi stood in front of the crowd and began his sermon “And when I die…” and until the personalized eulogy, it was the same speech. All of the relatives looked at one another in surprise which we did manage to hide from most of the crowd. Afterwards we rationalized that the rabbi probably had a pre-set group of sermons to deliver, after all he did  a lot of funerals, and just didn’t think twice about using the same speech in such a short time period – it isn’t often, I believe, that the same exact family had use of his services so soon after the first.
A year and a half later, my mom passed away. This time the funeral location was more than 40 miles away and yet the same rabbi’s name appeared on the preferred officiate list – well despite the repeated speech, we were very happy with his eloquence and services at least twice before, my mom had really liked his gentleness, so we hired him again. Well do I need to tell you? He looked out over the crowd of mourners and began his speech “And when I die…” – my sister and I were seated on either side of my grandmother, my mother’s mom, and our husbands sat beside each of us. Bobi, my sister, and I looked at each other over Grandma’s head and began laughing, uncontrollably. Terribly embarrassed about laughing at a funeral and not wanting to upset our grandmother any more we hid our faces in our husbands’ shoulders. Well everyone thought we were crying hysterically – “those poor Cordero girls, this is just too much for them…”; we laughed harder. Somehow Mark (my husband) and Del (Bobi’s husband) managed to hold it together although they both fought the smirks. (Later they told us how contagious our laughter was)

It was then that I decided that at my funeral SOMEONE, ANYONE, needs to announce loudly and clearly “And when I die…” and I hope that it will bring as much laughter to the room and my loved ones and that it will NOT be hidden. I’ve told my family members and close friends of this wish and I hope they remember, but if you are in attendance and it isn’t said, please do it yourself – thanks.

By the way, when my mother-in-law passed away a few years later, we used a different rabbi.

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