December was a great and terrible month. I allowed myself to thoroughly enjoy the holidays, which gave me quite the happy hormone rush to get me through the end of the year. However, it was also a time of stress and sorrow for my family. My great aunt on my father's side was on her way out and not for coffee. My mother's sister was determined to be resurrected repeatedly through a series of pneumonia and cardiac hospitalizations. I'm not sure how many times she died in December, but I'm pretty sure she's a cat. She's recovering now, but my great aunt is not a cat. She only got one life and she lost it a few weeks ago.
People who aren't all that well upstairs (read: a little crazy) handle grief in many ways. We may have breakdowns. We might retreat into depression. Some of us are even pretty stalwart in the face of death. I mean, we see this kind of shit in our heads every day. Myself, I laugh at funerals and check to make sure I'm displaying the right emotions. It's not that I don't care. It's just that I have an extraordinarily emotive mother and a stereo-typically emotionally tough dad. I'm never sure whether I'm supposed to shrug and say "She was old." or exclaim in a grave whisper "She cried out for me in the end!" Whether she did or not is irrelevant.
I was doing pretty well anxiety-wise when my great aunt passed away. I was able to say goodbye to her in her home. I cried a little, but mostly felt awkward about how I was supposed to behave. The only time I felt comfortable was when my mother left the room and I was alone with her. I was able to just say what I wanted to say to her without looking at the pained face of my great uncle or hearing odd reassurances from my mother that she would "take care" of everybody. I'm not sure what she meant or if I was supposed to also lie about taking care of everybody. (Love you, Mom. Don't worry. I'll take care of you.)
After considerable stress about what you're supposed to wear to a funeral now that you're a grown-up, I managed to make it. I parked my car, walked to the funeral home and spotted my mother, whose first act was to stage-whisper "I just wanted to give you a head's up. It's an open casket!" Great. Now everyone around me thinks that I have some fear of dead people that my mommy is protecting me from. I still have no idea why she announced it to me upon arrival. I hope she was trying to be helpful, even if it was unnecessary, and wasn't just bizarrely thrilled about the dead body.
The fact that I had been to this particular funeral home before was both sad and comforting. As an anxious person, it helped that I knew my way around. As a family member, I was sad to see the same faces grieving the loss of yet another important woman in their lives. Still, I was strangely completely unanxious. I was fine, apart from being bombarded with thoughts like, "Thanksgiving is going to be so weird without her." evening though she'd only celebrated a handful with us.
When I entered the room, I saw the open casket my mother referred to. It was beautiful. All white and ready to be my great aunt's time capsule. I didn't approach because that's not how I roll. It's not that I'm disturbed by the dead. It's that I'd already said goodbye, and I'm pretty sure she had long since left the building. However, after I had said my hellos to my loved ones and sat behind my father, I looked up at the body lying at the front of the room. That's when I noticed it. There was a Chucky Doll in my great aunt's coffin standing over her!
Now I know you're thinking we all should have fled, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Chucky Doll that was possessed by the evil spirit of a serial killer. It was just one of those Good Guy dolls, complete with overalls, freckles and playful cap. Okay, it probably wasn't a Good Guy doll from the Chucky films, but it sure looked like it. I wasn't the only one who thought so. Every person I asked agreed after looking at me like I was weirder than a Chucky doll in a casket.
Listen, I know everyone deals with things differently. My aunt dealt with things by collecting dolls, one of which kept her company at her funeral. My mother deals with things by speaking in solemn tones. My husband deals with things by keeping a straight face while his wife kicks the back of his mother-in-law's chair during a funeral. My sister deals with things by reconnecting with everyone down to our third cousin's proctologist. (Maybe an exaggeration. I'm not sure any of our third cousins have proctologists.) My point is, everyone has their thing. Mine is to laugh, even if someone else thinks it's disrespectful. My great aunt would have laughed with me if she had been there. I hope people laugh at my funeral. I hope they laugh a lot and at my expense. It would be beautiful.