You Don’t Say

Funerals are hardly the place for laughter.

Wakes, on the other hand, are. Most of the wakes I’ve attended have the initial “extending of condolences” followed by hanging out in the back with people you haven’t seen in years. And you chew the fat and bring up funny stories. Laughter follows, like a rainbow after the summer storm.

But funerals? Not so much.

Except… There was this time.

My father’s funeral mass was held in our parish church many years ago, and officiated by the Monsignor. Now the Monsignor had been a fixture in our church for a very long time, and was a pretty old man. (I couldn’t tell you how old, because when you’re a teenager anybody 50+ is Pretty Old.) But he was old and in need of hearing aids, which he wore often but (seemingly) activated hardly ever.

Anyway, I recall sitting with my Mom and four siblings in a church pew as the Monsignor delivered the eulogy. He knew my dad, who had been an active member of the parish and had done assorted electrical jobs at the church and rectory.  (Including this one.) He described him in glowing terms, as a helpful member of his congregation and as a loving family man.

And then he added, “I never heard him raise his voice.”

Now my father, God rest his soul, had a Portuguese temper. When he got angry with one of us he would yell. And this happened a lot. And, of course, we all knew how bad the Monsignor’s hearing was. So when Monsignor said “I never heard him raise his voice,” all five of us started laughing quietly in our pew. I think even my Mom might have, too.

It certainly didn’t make us forget the pain of our loss. But in that moment, it didn’t feel quite as bad.

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