We got there on the dot of ten, but the priest was already praying over the body. The deacon asked if I wanted a minute with the open casket.
I shook my head. On the day she died, I had already said, “Goodbye, Mom, I love you.”
And I dislike open caskets.
The last funeral I went to was in a Mennonite church. It was very simple.
Here there was a procession. My husband and I walked awkwardly behind my sibling and his family who do not speak to me who walked behind the coffin.
“Kat,” hissed my “banned relative” from a front pew. I have never been so overjoyed to see him.
“They can’t kick me out,” he had said on the phone.
The priest walked around the coffin shaking incense. Suddenly the censer broke. The two vessels (or vessel and lid?) fell off the broken rope. They were so hot that the deacon had trouble picking them up.
I didn’t know the responses in the Mass.
My dad said, “Why is your brother kneeling? Isn’t he an atheist?”
We stood and sat.
“The Lord be with you.”
“And also with you.”
I could have sworn it was, “And with your spirit.” I remember the Latin: et cum spiritu tuo.
“No, it’s ‘And also with you,'” my husband assured me.
I took communion.
“Body of Christ.”
A pause while I figured out what to say. “Amen.”
The holy wafer stuck to the roof of my mouth. In the old days we weren’t allowed to touch it. It didn’t dissolve. It was there for the rest of the mass.
I sang the last hymn, “Jesus, Joy of Our Desiring.”
But, on the second verse, we, the family, were expected to troop out of the church.
“Bye, do you need a ride to the burial?” I whispered to the “banned relative.” I was a little late leaving the church, but, really, who cared?
I talked to my mother’s friends at the burial service.
Afterwards we had coffee downtown, Chinese food, and went to one bookstore before driving home.
It was a very long day.