In the Mourning by Adam Karlson
Featured in The Coup: Ode, Vol. 33 (2015)
The first time I thought I was going to die, ironically, was at my grandfather’s funeral. Now my granddad definitely knew how to put the “fun” in funeral, especially his own.
Even months before his funeral, my grandpa was cracking jokes about his terminal illness. I remember when he took me to look at tombstones, a classic grandfather-grandson bonding moment. We were joking about what we thought the epitaph should say. He suggested something along the lines of “I told you I was sick”, while I argued for the phrases “I hid all the money in the-” or “Zombie-in-training”. Eventually my granddad and I settled on a more appropriate epitaph. Then arose the question, though: when he was good and dead, would my grandad like his body to be burned, or to be put in the ground, six feet under? My grandad decided he would like to be cremated, saying it would be “his last chance to have a smoking hot body”. That remark pretty much describes my grandad’s humor.
Now back to the funeral. All day I’d been trying to keep myself from imagining my grandfather as a poltergeist who was trying to move his urn off the table it was sitting on (I was twelve, but even so, that is something my grandfather would most certainly do). I was daydreaming in the sermon because frankly, it was really boring, but aside from my inattentiveness, I was behaving pretty well.
That is, until Don’t You Forget About Me began blaring throughout the church.
To me, this was frankly an outrage. A funeral is a commemoration of the passing on of a loved relative, not an 80’s teen comedy with a John Hughes sound track that ends with Bender throwing his fist up in the air because he got the girl. Who thought this was even remotely fitting for a funeral? In spite of myself, I began to giggle. And then I began to laugh.
And so before I knew it, there I was: in a church, gut busting, panting, and wheezing out of unadulterated laughter, at my granddad’s funeral.
Heads turned, and the reverend stopped talking. The rest of the room was silent, save for my laughter. I glanced at my father, who was giving me a look that seemed to ensure that if I couldn’t control myself quick, there would soon be a second urn sitting on the stage.
But to my immediate rescue, something occurred that would have been almost as equally unpredictable as my grandad being born again from the ashes and jumping out of his urn to yell “fooled ya!”. Everyone is the room began to laugh with me, even my father. I don’t know if it was to save me some embarrassment, but I like to think people began to laugh because they were remembering the fun times they had with my grandad. Besides, everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine – that is, besides actual medicine like chemotherapy (although chemotherapy was probably what landed my grandad up on stage in that brass urn in the first place).
Needless to say, I’ll never forget that strange mourning where I learned that humor, even in the form of an 80’s hit single, is the best coping mechanism around. I also know I’ll never forget that I succeeded in getting an entire church to laugh at my dead grandpa – something I’m proud of, because if he were there, I think he would have been laughing too.