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June 18, 2006

Funeral fun

This morning, my synagogue softball team played its first game in a double-elimination playoff. We lost the first game, and since "losers walk," we had to go to another field to play the next game with another losing team. We were already in a part of Montgomery County that we weren't all that familiar with, and the second game was way out there, even farther out than the first game. We huddled with the directions and then tried to follow each other in our cars as much as possible. At one point, I almost lost the guys in front of me.

Which reminded me of my father's funeral in January. (It is Father's Day today, after all.)

After the funeral, we all tried to follow the hearse to the cemetery. Most of us knew where the cemetery was, but not everyone. We had to drive through the downtown area of the town I grew up in, and with a procession numbering about a dozen cars, not everyone had the guts to follow through red lights. I did, but I kept checking my rear view mirror to see who was going to follow.

Eventually, we made it to the cemetery. We stopped at the administrative office near the gate for about five minutes. My mother was in the car in front of mine, driven by my brother-in-law, and she and one of my sisters got out of the car and walked back to speak to the people in the car behind mine. For some reason, when things had been settled at the administrative office, my brother-in-law took off -- without my mother and sister, who seemed totally unconcerned. I saw them in my rear view mirror and waited for them to get into the car behind me. Only they didn't get in. They stood outside the car and continued to talk to the people in the car.

After a minute or so, I decided I'd better move on. They'd have to take care of themselves. But by this time, I had lost my brother-in-law's car. "No problem," I thought. "How hard can it be to find a hearse and four other cars in a cemetery?" Well, I took this turn and that, but they were nowhere to be seen. And now I was getting nervous. We drove around for awhile, through the Chinese and Korean sections of the cemetery, looking for some Jewish names. After a few minutes of near panic, we saw my cousin driving toward us. We looked up, and there was everyone else.

Well, not exactly everyone. My sister and mother were still not there. We got one of the funeral people to call down to the administrative office, and after a few more minutes, my mother and sister arrived. Ready to go, right? Not quite. Two of my other sisters were not even at the cemetery yet. They had stayed at the shul looking for my mother, who had already left with someone else. And now they were lost between the shul and the cemetery. The funeral guy got on the phone with them and over a period of what must have been at least 10 or 15 minutes slowly guided them to the cemetery.

About a half hour after we were supposed to begin the burial, we finally got started.

It really must be something about my family. Because when my maternal grandmother was buried in 1981 at that same cemetery, we had another amusing incident.

I was driving my mother in the lead car behind the hearse, and when we got to the cemetery, which is on a narrow, winding, two-lane road, the hearse driver, instead of turning into the cemetery entrance, drove past the entrance on the road and stopped the hearse. He got out of the car, walked to our driver's window, and said to me, "They told me to drive past the gate and stop." He walked on toward the cemetery, and I turned to my mother and said, "What a total moron! They meant drive into the cemetery past the gate and stop." Sure enough, that's what they told him at the cemetery. He came back, without the slightest emotion on his face, to his hearse. But now he had a problem. The road was too narrow for him to turn around, and there were about a dozen cars behind him. So he pulled forward, veered right into the dirt parking lot of a roadside restaurant, and made a loop, turning left on the road back down to the cemetery. All of the dozen or so cars behind him followed through the parking lot, looping back down the road.

I wish I had the words to describe the expressions on the faces of a family standing next to its car in that parking lot as a hearse and a dozen cars pulled around them and back onto the road. But I knew that if my grandmother could have seen it, she would have enjoyed it no end.