Twice, my family has shown up at the wrong funeral...
The first time was when our neighbor passed away. I don't really have many neighbors due to the large tracts of land that everyone owns...that spreads us out. Still, I do have people on 3 sides and even if I only see them a few times each year, they are my neighbors.
Mr. O. was a kindly old gentleman who lived with his wife on our southern boundary. They were perfect neighbors, mostly out of sight, out of mind. Mr. O would talk to me over the fence or occasionally wander over looking for his tiny dog which was quite the escape artist. Our kids would take extra cookies over to visit once in awhile, and Mr. O and his wife went to the same church as my crew.
One day, my wife sadly informed me that Mr. O. had died. She had read the obituary notice in the local paper. The services were to be held during the work week, I couldn't make it, but my wife took the kids to say goodbye. They were pretty young, but she wanted them to be there as a comfort to Mrs. O. They were seated at the funeral feeling sad that their kind old friend had passed, when in walked Mr. O. and his wife. He saw them immediately and made a point to walk over and express his gratitude that they would come to his brother's funeral.
My wife played along as if that had been the plan all along and the kids just stared wide-eyed at him, Lazarus as it were...
Fast forward to a couple of years ago. My mom called me from St. Augustine to tell me that the father of one of my highschool buddies had died. Mr. G. was a funny part of my youth, always cracking jokes and even though I had not seen my old buddy (his son) for a long time...decades actually, I felt it was important to be there. I checked the obit for the name of the funeral home and the cemetery. The funeral was in Lake City, about 80 miles away, so I printed a map also. My ducks were in a row.
I left early on funeral day so I could find the cemetery and be on time for the 11:00 am graveside service. When I got to Lake City, the cemetery, Memorial Gardens was harder to find than I had expected. Why can't real life be more like the Mapquest maps?
Finally, I pulled into a little country store and asked about the cemetery. "Go here, take a left, go about 2 miles..." It was getting close to the 11:00 am start time so I took off in a hurry.
Finally I spotted a big cemetery, Memorial Gardens. In the center, beyond a line of parked cars, a green funeral tent was surrounded by mourners. I whipped the Jeep into the entrance, parked, and walked quickly towards the tent. I looked at my watch, 10:54 am. I had made it.
The mourners were crowded around the tent, I couldn't see the family, but I knew they were sitting up front. I walked around the back of the crowd and blended in.
The preacher ascended the little podium stand and began to speak. I glanced around me at the well dressed people...hmmm, I don't see anybody I know. Still it had been a long time and I didn't really know Mr. G's extended family. The service was going along nicely, when a young girl was introduced prior to singing a song. The preacher said, " ...and now Janet's granddaughter will sing, Amazing Grace, one of Janet's favorite songs"
Janet? Who is Janet? I began to imagine the unimaginable. Funny how the brain tries to convince you that weirdness can't really be happening. I tried to rationalize who Janet might be as the little girl sang on. Then the song was over, the young girl stepped down and the preacher began to share Janet's life story. There was no longer any denying the truth. I was at the wrong funeral. We were a good 15 minutes into the service and if I didn't leave now, right now, I would miss the funeral of my friend's dad.
So, in the height of Janet's funeral, as the preacher was telling the story of her long life, I made my plan to exit. I began easing towards the back of the crowd, still facing the preacher, but trying to get outside the crowd. It seemed to take forever. Finally, I was out. Next, I had to walk around the crowd and the tent...in front of everyone. I fixed my eyes straight ahead and walked quickly out, around, and to the Jeep. Inside, I put the key in the ignition and hesitated. There was no getting around it, I had to start it up during Janet's eulogy.
I turned the key and drove quickly through the graveyard gate. Down the road about 3 miles, I spotted the funeral home from the obit notice. I turned in and went inside. Nobody was around. There was a bell on the desk, so I rang it. A guy came out eating a peanutbutter sandwich. "Can I help you?"
"I'm here for the G. funeral and I'm late." I gasped.
"I'll say, " he munched, " It's probably almost over".
"Where is it?"
"Uptown, the Memorial cemetery across from the National Guard armory."
I ran to the Jeep and headed downtown...in lunchtime traffic now.
Finally, I spotted the armory and there in the cemetery a funeral tent. The few cars left were leaving, the rows of chairs were empty, and there beside his father's grave was my old friend...just about to leave.
He stared at me, totally surprised to see me at all, much less after the fact.
I told him the story of my morning, and there, at the graveside of his father we laughed loud and long.
I imagine that somewhere...Mr. G. was laughing too.