Hello and goodbye

Ed Smith
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Weddings and funerals have some things in common.

Having attended a couple of the former and far too many of the latter in the not-too-distant past, I can make that comment without fear of being contradicted.

OK, I probably have some fear of being contradicted, but not with any reasonable arguments.

OK, the arguments may be somewhat reasonable. If you’ve had the sadness of saying goodbye recently to someone in your family, or someone who was a friend, you may be thinking Smith is out of his gourd. He can’t talk about this without offending at least two of his three readers.

I apologize in advance. The truth is, I feel the need to lighten up, this being my sister’s birthday and she’s getting up in years. It’s an uncomfortable reminder of my own mortality.

Let’s talk about some of the more obvious similarities between those two great “bookends” of life.

First and foremost, both occasions are clogged full of relatives. Relatives are present in both that at least two or three others present don’t want to lay eyes on. I know, in weddings they are invited and in funerals they come out of the woodwork.

At the wedding, there’s dear old Uncle Bob, who hasn’t spoken to his brother, dear old Uncle Jim, since they had that falling out about who should read the scripture lines at their father’s funeral 38 years ago.

The next door neighbour of 30 years isn’t talking to the father of the bride since the lawsuit. That was over who actually owned the six inches of land on which the fence separating the two properties had been built when they were all friends.

I’ve seen weddings in which two of the huskier of the guests who didn’t know, and had no connection with either family, had to be detailed to keep order in case violence broke out. If you say you’ve never known anything like that, I don’t believe you.

You have absolutely no say about who turns up at Granddaddy’s funeral. There’s where the true potential exists for actual damage to life and limb. I won’t bother you with examples but … OK, just one.

Three wives

Granddaddy (neither OH’s nor mine) was married three times. The first two of these did not end happily, Granddaddy being a bit of a rake. Some would say a womanizer. Consequently, the first two marriages ended when the first two wives discovered they were not the only loves in Granddaddy’s rather active love life.

The old man finally found the love of his life and settled down. As far as I know, he never strayed again. Perhaps it was his age. Whatever, the first two wives couldn’t stand each other’s intestines. They both agreed on one thing only: that wife No. 3 had gotten her husband, their former husband, through devious means, which means it involved both of them. You beginning to see how this might have turned out?

That’s right. They were all there for the funeral, weeping and wailing something fierce, and in between floods of tears, asking about various pieces of furniture in Granddaddy’s  house, and what had happened to the old Lee Enfield .303 that Granddaddy had promised to the oldest son of the first wife.

No matter what the potential for nastiness, one thing is common among relatives at both funerals and weddings. When it’s over, enemies and bosom buddies have all vowed that from now on they’ll be in constant touch with each other.

“And, you know, we really should have that family reunion we’ve been talking about for years. And yes, you’ll all have to come out to Fort McMurray to see us next summer, and we promise we’ll be down to Lower Island Cove to visit all of you.”

I don’t know why these things end on such affectionate notes. The love and goodwill are practically dripping from each word. I do know no one means one damn word. Everybody knows that and everybody pretends not to. If they are planning a trip down here next summer, it’s to see if they can find Granddaddy’s Lee Enfield .303.

“Such cynicism, Eddie,” you’re saying.

Yes indeed, my dear, such cynicism.

Leaning cake

I was at a wedding many years ago in which the cake was a multi-multilayered thing of beauty that would have put the Eiffel Tower to shame. Other Half and I were sitting at the same table directly across from this culinary masterpiece and admiring it at length.

It might have been OH who brought my attention to the fact that we were comparing it to the wrong famous tower. The Tower of Pisa, she whispered, might be a more appropriate comparison, given that the cake seemed to have a definite lean in a certain direction, that direction being toward us.

OH has always had excellent reactions to various stimuli. She saw the precise moment when the cake gave in to the law of gravity and began a rapid descent to the top of the table. I saw that if she remained where she was, I might have to eat my piece of cake out of her lap.

She moved quickly and the top two layers of the cake ended up on the floor instead of on her.

I whispered to her that I was somewhat disappointed. She smiled sympathetically and told me not to whisper so loudly because I was the minister who had just married the happy couple and she was the minister’s wife.

I didn’t understand what that had to do with anything.

Believe it or not, OH and I met that same lovely couple for the first time since, almost 40 years later, in a restaurant on the Trans-Canada Highway.

In the middle of writing this, I asked a friend to compare funerals and weddings for me. Her answer was immediate and profound.

“Funerals are forever. Weddings not necessarily so.”

And that, my friends, is just the way it is.  

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is   edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Trans-Canada Highway.In

Geographic location: Fort McMurray, Lower Island Cove, Springdale

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