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Friday, February 04, 2005

Decadent tombs

My wife's aunt passed away, so we went to Alabama for her funeral. The funeral was, well, a funeral: sad. But, in the midst of mourning, something strange happened.

My mother-in-law (sister to the deceased) has something like twelve aunts and uncles, and therefore dozens of cousins. During the "viewing" part of the service, we were introduced to an endless stream of grayhaired women, each of them a daughter of some Aunt SoAndSo that my wife barely remembers, if she ever knew at all.

At one point, a woman came over to introduce herself to my wife. We're in the second row of seats, and she sits in the first row and turns around to face us. She said she was my wife's grandmother's (MWG) former housekeeper. She says she's sorry she hasn't been able to see more of MWG these days, but [yadayadayada... whatever]. Then she tells us that she's had some sad times in her life, too; she had a son die at nine, and a daughter who was born at 6 months, who died, how it took her four years to be able to look at pictures of her son and not break down, etc.. This is too much information, in my opinion, to be sharing with people you've never met. I start to tune out. My wife keeps nodding politiely, and the woman continues. When I pick up the conversation again, she's telling my wife how she started reading about the ancient Egyptians and how they treated their dead, notably the "decadent tombs" they created for their dearly departed - mummification, lavish displays, etc.. She repeats the phrase "decadent tombs" two or three times. She says it's a shame people (ie., the government) won't let people keep the bodies of their loved ones around, if they choose. Uh oh, thinks me. The Egyptians knew how to preserve a body, and there are people around these days who can duplicate what the Egyptians did, she informs my wife. I check to make sure my wife's jaw isn't on the floor - it isn't and I'm impressed. Then she drops the big one; she says if she could, she would reserve a room of her house as a place to remember her dead children. She would keep their coffins in the room, and visit them whenever she wanted. I presume the children would be mummified. Just to make sure I'm still where I think I am, I look over the woman's shoulder and note that yes, there is, in fact, an open casket ten feet away, and grieving family all around - I'm at a funeral, and this woman, a former part-time housekeeper of the mother of the deceased is a little bummed that she can't set up a decadent tomb for her dead children, in her house. Surreal. Shortly after that, another cousin comes by to introduce herself and tell my wife how she remembers her as a baby, etc., during the interruption, the crazy woman gets up and goes off to find a new person to freak-out. A few minutes later, I hear her telling someone else about how her psychiatrist is adjusting her medication. Ah...

On the way home from the Raleigh airport yesterday afternoon, we passed a bald eagle flying low and slow over Lake Crabtree. We'd heard there were bald eagles in the area, and that there was a nest in that area, but until yesterday, we didn't believe it.

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.