My dear friend from Romania is staying with us right now, and some of my favorite things to talk with her about are the crazy cultural differences that lie between life in the USA and life in Eastern Europe. For instance, on Christmas Eve night, Romanians head out and carol from house to house. They visit friends and family and sing their favorite Christmas tunes for one another well into the early morning hours of Christmas day. Sounds positively dreadful to me, as I like my sleep, but to each his own.
When there's a death in Romania, the family of the dearly departed keeps his/her body in their home for three days, and for three nights they don't sleep; instead, they mourn. Other family members make food and drinks and friends stop by at some point during those three nights to share their condolences (and to snag some schnitzel and pastries, I'm guessing, because who doesn't like a free meal?). Again, sounds dreadful to me, partly because of the whole "someone died" piece, and partly again because of the staying up all night. I'm sorry, but ain't NOBODY got time for that business.
Needless to say, we come from two very different places, and it's one of my favorite things about our friendship.
As I was cleaning the kitchen today, my friend sat at our bar, and we chatted about various topics. Somehow the topic of death came up again. Suddenly, she asked me, "Do you know that when someone dies in a Romanian village, the family of the dead hires professional weepers to come to the wake each night to cry for the person who died?"
Ummmm...hold up. What???
I told her that, no, I wasn't aware of the tradition, nor was I aware that there was a market for professional weepers. Had I known, I might have been tempted to try my hand at it. I asked what the purpose of the weepers is, and she told me that they are used to help set the mood at the wake. Basically, they cry to make everyone around them feel kinda sad, all in hopes that those folks might, in turn, cry, making others cry and...you get the idea. It's a weeping ripple effect.
I literally busted out laughing at the thought of this. As though death isn't sad enough, let's get some really good criers to come in and throw down a little weeping and gnashing of teeth. Let's really do the dead proud, you know what I mean? Oy vey.
Between gasps for air and belly laughs, I told my friend, "When I die, I want you to hire professional laughers for my funeral." Kinda like these people:
That sent us into another laughing spell, causing my middle child to run into the kitchen to ask us what was so funny. I told him, "Son, when I die, I want you guys to make sure you hire some real good laughers to come in for the funeral. I want the best of the best. The best guffaw-er, the best chuckler, the best laugh-til-you-cry-er. I want 'em all. And I want them to laugh all the way through the service."
He thought that was just great, and he laughed as he ran off into the other room.
About five minutes later, my son ran back into the kitchen, and said jubilantly, "Mom! I have the BEST idea! I know who I want to bring to your funeral to laugh at you! I'm gonna bring my friend Isaiah. He's so funny and he'll laugh so hard at you! It'll be perfect!"With that, he took off again, leaving me and my girlfriend in a puddle of laugh-til-you-cry tears in the kitchen.
My son wants to bring his best pal to my funeral to laugh at me. More specially, to laugh so hard at me. There's nothing weird about that, is there?
To be honest, friends, I'm not sure why I'm sharing this with you tonight. I don't have some deep spiritual truth to pass along to you, although I'm sure I could find one if I tried. Maybe you simply need a little funny in your life today. Life is funny and death can be funny, especially since we're all just passing through. Maybe you're the sort who'd like some professional weepers to set the mood at your funeral, complete with black veils and lace handkerchiefs; maybe you're the kind who wants juggling clowns and cotton candy machines. No matter, death isn't really death. It's just a graduation to real life, and it's worth celebrating.
For what it's worth, I vote for the clowns and cotton candy; people will have the BEST time if you throw a funeral party like that.