My mother is a keen expert in Catholic Guilt. She has learned the art with gusto and can summon a yes out of me with ease of a sniff or hint of illness. It’s no surprise that she learned it from the best – her mother.
Pallbearers at the Ready - Ginger Lovellette
My Nana was a fireball of words and was an extremely sore loser at cards. It’s not that she didn’t love us but she liked to test us. Perhaps, it was by calling our husband by our ex-boyfriends names, or point out without exception when we gained weight. But she loved us in her odd way always disappointed that we never fulfilled any of her dreams of becoming nuns, saints, or priests.
It was when she died it was unbeknownst to me that the family had decided a grandchild from each family would be a pallbearer. My Mom went to my sister and she wisely declined. As I sipped my wine our mother glanced my way ‘You can be the pallbearer. We need one from each family.”
“I don’t want to do it.”
“You have to your sister won’t! So that means you!”
“Do I have too?”
“Yes! You do!”
“We have to have someone represent us. I can’t do it! I just can’t” she sniffed and then peered up to see if I would take the bait.
“Isn’t the casket heavy to lift?”
“Don’t worry about there will be a trolley. You won’t have to lift. You just have to walk beside and help wheel it down.”
The morning of the funeral was cold with a light snow as we arrived at the church. We walked in I waited back with a motley crew of cousins two already had a nip at the bottle, one was recovering from heart surgery, another that weighed less than a hundred pounds, one cranky as me for having to participate in the service.
We were ushered outside to the front of the church. The gentleman from the funeral home informed us that we would have to assist with removing the coffin from the hearse. It was there we all looked for the trolley to wheel her up the stairs.
We looked and then we looked at each other – we were all to carry the coffin up the mountain of icy stairs and down the long church aisle. How could this happen? In the madness of it all I and my other cousin were placed in the front to bare the heaviest of the casket. My shoes slipped, my cousin who had a nip, “Hold on! Does everyone got her?”
I suspected he mumbled the words old trout under his breath.
We slowly walked up the icy steps, our faces beat red, puffing and panting. Nana and the coffin were much heavier than expected, it was at that moment, I cursed my Mom, I cursed my heels, and the coffin began to tilt someone screamed, “Hold on! We`re losing her! Don’t drop Nana!”
It was with panic we all held on for dear life and knew if we dropped Nana it would be the end to us all. The Aunts would never forgive us and we would be thrown into our own private hell. We all caught balanced and managed walking the coffin down the aisle. After we returned to the pews, my one cousin was having chest pains, the other was looking for his flask, and my other cousin turned to me and replied, “Nana was heavy! But I didn’t think she was that heavy.”
It’s with that is the memory of my grandmother’s funeral all six of us guilted into carrying the casket up the aisle and almost dropping Nana. I could almost hear her in heaven as she nipped her gin, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they did drop me! One of them at least could have been a nun or a priest!”
It was after the funeral I returned home that I vowed to learn to use the word No with gusto! It was that evening I toasted Nana with a glass of lime pop and gin thanking her for her last heavy lesson. If I could return to that day I would have much prefered to be in the pew mustering a tear or two instead of dealing with the fear of Nana’s holy ghost.
Is there a day you would like to return to and just say no?