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Monday, July 8, 2013

43

Is Great-Grandma R. Kelly?!

“Rest in peace, Gram. So happy you’re finally home. We love you!” read my Aunt Patty’s Facebook post. I was sitting in LaGuardia airport with my cousin, Shauna. I read it aloud to her.

We were confused. We had buried “Gram,” my great-grandmother, in 1987. I remember all the funerals I went to as a kid because Gram was on the Irish side of my family, and at Irish funerals I made approximately zero dollars simply for showing up. This was in direct contrast to funerals I attended for the Italian side of my family. At those, every relative I said hello to told me what a beautiful young woman I was becoming, how I looked just like my mother, and then slipped me a five dollar bill. At my Italian grandma’s funeral, I walked away with $150 dollars. It would be my most successful funeral ever.

Shauna and I couldn’t resist. I wrote back below the post on behalf of both of us, with a slight giggle: “Ummm, where has she been?”

I received a text immediately. “I took your post down so Jane Smith doesn’t see it,” my aunt wrote. “Call me.” Jane Smith was the current director of the Mary Smith funeral home, the place where my family has had all of its funerals (we’re from a rather small town). Jane took the funeral home over from her mother, the titular Mary, a few years ago.

I looked at Shauna. “Well, this should be good.” We dialed.

As it turned out, Jane was doing some routine spring-cleaning in the funeral home when she came across a little-used closet in the back. Inside the closet were a number of boxes, and upon inspection it was discovered that inside those boxes there were... people.

Apparently Mary had been quite a drinker later in life—enough of one that it led to her (forced) retirement. During some of these lost years, she had apparently not shipped the ashes for quite a few of her patrons to the various cemeteries to which they were headed. Instead, the ashes were stored away. My great-grandma had been in the back closet of Smith’s funeral home for nearly 26 years. There is no standard response to hearing something like that. Shauna and I hung up the phone.

We took moment and looked at each other to digest this strange, ridiculous news. We were feeling punchy—we were headed to my sister’s 30th birthday party in Atlanta, and we were in the mood to go out and get drunk already.

After a moment, trying my hardest to hide a giggle, I asked Shauna the most pressing question I had on the matter. “Would it be accurate to say that Gram has been trapped in the closet?”

Eyes wide, she whispered back without missing a beat. “Oh my god. Is Gram R. Kelly?

We couldn’t help it. We cracked up. And then, because we are terrible people, we kept going.

“I think R. Kelly owes Gram some serious royalties. There are, like, 26,000 parts to Trapped in the Closet.’”

“Do you think there were any...wait for it...skeletons in those closets?”

“Yo, what if grandma had a boyfriend in there? The whole graveyard is going to be talking about this!”

“What will great-grandpa say? He’s been chilling in peace for, like, two decades! Anyone want to even ask him what he thinks about this mess?”

At no point did we stop to question if we were going straight to hell for making fun of what is a pretty grievous clerical error. Apparently, according to my other aunt who went to pick up the ashes, there were enough people in the closet to fill a two-page, single-spaced Word document. That’s a lot of people not to be in their final resting place. And yet, we laughed anyway because seriously, what a strange thing to have happen to your great-grandma.

Several weeks later, a very beloved aunt—the matriarch of our family, really—passed away. She had been ill for a long time, and while we were sad, we also didn’t want her to suffer.

So we all entered Smith’s Funeral Home with heavy hearts to say goodbye to one of our favorite people. But as we talked and hugged and remembered our aunt, the mood brightened. We realized our aunt, who was so full of life and laughter, would hate to see us so sad. Eventually, the wake evolved into more of a remembrance. Before long, the room’s mood had lightened as we shared our favorite stories.

A few of us gathered in the hallway at one point to use the restroom and grab some water. As a group of us cousins stood around, Shauna made her way over to the coat closet.

She called out to get our attention, opened the closet, cupped her hand over her mouth and called out, “Gram? Hey Gram, you in there?”

The silence was complete for a beat, and then we lost it. We erupted. I laughed so hard and for so long, I swear I peed a little. I laughed about it for weeks.

Since then, I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I can take away from this story—aside from the obvious fact that my cousins and I are the worst. I feel there must be some lesson when you learn your relative’s remains have been in a closet for nearly three decades. I’ve come up with a few.

1.) It’s not like Grams knows. Or maybe she does. Does it matter? I believe in an afterlife, and from the somewhat embarrassing number of television shows I watch on death, dying and what happens after, I’ve learned that it seems no one on the other side is really worried about anything happening here on Earth. I mean, some people don’t cross over because of residual issues, and some people just want to stick around to haunt the living, but for the most part, the majority of beings seem pretty content with the great beyond and just want to chill. My Gram liked to stuff bourbon in her couch cushions and drink it when she was home alone, and then lie when someone asked her if she’d been hitting the bottle, as if being a drunk elderly person is something that can be easily hidden. I’d like to think that if she was aware of not being in her final resting place, that same cool attitude would mean she’d be okay with getting misplaced for what equates to a millisecond in the grand scheme of time.

2.) You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather. (Thank you, Outkast.) Maybe the point of my Gram’s ashes being in a dark closet for 26 years is a reminder that death is no different than life. You can make a plan, but that doesn’t mean the plan is going to unfold the way you want it to. As in: Sure, you can plan to go to a cemetery, but that doesn’t mean you will get there. Some things are just out of your hands. Literally, your hands (or the ashes of them, anyway) are sometimes in someone else’s hands and that person may be drunk. What can you do?

3.) It's better to have a family that laughs instead of litigates. I’m sure there is a more litigious family out there that would have seen this error as a major payday. A family that could have made some serious dough off these shenanigans and then taken the group trip of a lifetime to Hawaii. The fact that my family simply went and picked up the ashes, took them to the cemetery, and then made a series of terrible jokes is probably the same reason why my family has no millionaires.

However, I’d much rather have a family that makes me pee my pants from laughing than one who would take a daughter to the cleaner’s for her mother’s mistake. And with a family of our size, we’d really only be able to take one nice trip to Hawaii as a group, anyway. I can pee my pants anytime with them for free.

 

Previously: Conversations With Old Men

Lia LoBello works in public relations and marketing by day, but spends her nights crafting, cooking, and watching real-crime television. She tweets at @lialobello. If you know of any good shows about murder, revenge, or psychic children, please let her know immediately.

43 Comments / Post A Comment

mochi

I was really hoping for some ghosts in that closet

xcbxcreueru547

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fondue with cheddar

This was great, and I agree. There's nothing wrong with laughing at a funeral. I hope people laugh at mine.

meetapossum

@fondue with cheddar Oh, gosh, ditto. I want there to be an Irish wake and everyone to get drunk and tell funny stories about me when I die.

iceberg

@fondue with cheddar No way, motherfuckers better be in ALL BLACK and weeping copiously or NO ENTRY. I will haunt the shit out of you.

Unless I get to be super-old and fabulous a la the Advanced Style blog, then I GUESS you can celebrate my life.

meetapossum

@iceberg Should they make jewelry out of your hair?

iceberg

@meetapossum no, that's gross, but they can make diamonds from my ashes :)

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg Okay, 'Pinners...any of us who are still alive when iceberg kicks (a very, very long time from now!) have to come to her funeral, wearing all black while weeping WITH LAUGHTER. <3 u icebergie! You make us laugh in life, why should we stop when you're gone.

I love the Advanced Style ladies so much!

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg Will you be qreamated?

Drawn7979

@iceberg
really gross, hehe.

meetapossum

@iceberg But sometimes it's really cool!

or Elsa!

@fondue with cheddar One of the great unintended accomplishments of my life was making a stiff-lipped funeral director (who was obviously making every effort to remain the single solemn-faced person in the room) burst out into brays of laughter as we --- his mother, brother, and I --- planned my [partner/best friend/complicated whatever]'s funeral.

He'd been dying a long time, and for us, it was time to be happy he was free.

RosemaryF

@fondue with cheddar My mom actually said that*. We were chit chatting about funerals and I made the comment about "celebrating her life," she said, "I don't want people to be happy, I want them to be miserable. I'm dead for goodness sake! I want you people to be absolutely torn up at my funeral! Then afterwards you can go back to being happy." Being truly WASPy, she had never been to a funeral where someone was so distraught that they threw themselves on the casket and wailed but it was her dream to have someone do that at her funeral.

Unfortunately, our inbred WASPishness held out and no one was that dramatic at her actual funeral.

*She wanted all that in a tongue-in-cheek manner. She was much more delightful than this one story might imply.

fondue with cheddar

@or Elsa! Wow, I'm sorry to hear about that, but I'm glad he got the release he needed. I'll bet the funeral director was relieved, because normally he isn't allowed to laugh at his job, which sucks.

or Elsa!

@fondue with cheddar I just realized I left out all the ameliorative, softening modifiers that I would normally wedge into a story like that, like "first partner" and "years ago" and so on.

Initially, the funeral director seemed scandalized, but it's hard to know how much of what we saw as disapproval was just him struggling to keep his professional face on. And, y'know, who cares if he was scandalized? (Though, really, you'd think funeral professionals would have seen EVERYTHING.)

fondue with cheddar

@or Elsa! No worries, the way you spoke about it, it didn't seem like something that was still fresh and painful.

True, there are certainly many instances in which the survivors are relived that their loved one died because they were suffering and were ready to go. I agree that he's probably been in similar situations before. Maybe it's funeral director's code? If you think about it, it's better to be somber when their clients are laughing than to let your guard down and accidentally be jovial when it's inappropriate.

E. Dimples

@fondue with cheddar I've laughed at every adult's funeral who played in decent role in my life that I've ever been to, including my own father's (And I do miss him incredibly.). It beats spending that time crying or making awkward conversation. And I'm less likely to fall back into smoking if I'm giggling in a group than if I am being serious and somber.

fondue with cheddar

@Kimmp I'm sorry about your dad. Yeah, funerals are so awkward. Laughter is great at breaking the ice and lifting the spirit, so to me laughter and funerals are a natural fit. Everyone has their own way of grieving, and as long as nobody's being disrespectful it's all okay in my book.

fondue with cheddar

Oh, and how many of you, upon reading the title, immediately thought of that Chappelle's Show sketch with R. Kelly and his grandma?

fondue with cheddar

"That's my Robert, always peeing on people!"

Really? Nobody else? Okay.

matilda wormwood

@fondue with cheddar you have prompted me to spend my next Internet Rabbithole finding that clip

fondue with cheddar

@matilda wormwood WORTH IT.

Also, thank you for indulging me with a comment. I was floored that nobody else thought of this. Unless everybody secretly hates me and that's why they didn't thumbs-up or comment. ;)

milenakent

i seriously love this!!@n

iceberg

"However, I’d much rather have a family that makes me pee my pants from laughing than one who would take a daughter to the cleaner’s for her mother’s mistake."

Yuuuup. Also probably why no millionaires in our family. That and the (British colonial?) tendency to assume it was our own fault somehow.

smidge

@iceberg Okay does this mean you can explain why the British people I know always joke about how Brits feel guilty when they win things?

RNL
RNL

@iceberg Truuuuuth.

But also, there is not really any money in a lawsuit over this error. There are no damages. You might be able to get a nominal amount, but certainly not enough for a family trip to Hawaii.

large__marge

My grandmother's ashes were FedExed from her home in Florida to us in Massachusetts. Cue all sorts of "your mother's at the door" jokes in my house.

fondue with cheddar

@large__marge That's great. And now I wish there were someone named Dick in my family so I could make "Dick in a box" jokes.

stinapag

It's not uncommon for people to be, er, left at funeral homes. A friend of mine makes art out of cremains that never got picked up.

meetapossum

@stinapag Whoa. I would be down with my family making me into paintings when I'm dead.

Inkling

@stinapag
Who is she allowed to take and under what circumstances? I thought they had to be there for a long-ass time in case someone came to claim them!

Oh, squiggles

I want to be a drunk elderly person.

RNL
RNL

@Absurd Bird My 98 year old grandmother's pain relief regimen is basically Baileys.

Daisy Razor

Inappropriate giggle-fits at funerals are a Razor family tradition on my mother's side. Considering what a crappy childhood she and her ten (yup, TEN) siblings had, it seems only fair that they can find hilarity in anything.

Shara

Aw, I miss my siblings.

xcbxcreueru547

@mochi ~Oh,Unbelievable~~ My best friend Elena has just married to a cool black man. They fall in love through~~IntërracialFìshes. ℂoм ~This is a Specialized Online Interracial Dating Services. For black women meet white men, black men dating white women. Meet interracial singles living in your local area or in countries around the world. .)If you are single, worth a try.qww

xcbxcreueru547

@mochi ~Oh,Unbelievable~~ My best friend Elena has just married to a cool black man. They fall in love through~~IntërracialFìshes. ℂoм ~This is a Specialized Online Interracial Dating Services. For black women meet white men, black men dating white women. Meet interracial singles living in your local area or in countries around the world. .)If you are single, worth a try.qww

xcbxcreueru547

@mochi ~Oh,Unbelievable~~ My best friend Elena has just married to a cool black man. They fall in love through~~IntërracialFìshes. ℂoм ~This is a Specialized Online Interracial Dating Services. For black women meet white men, black men dating white women. Meet interracial singles living in your local area or in countries around the world. .)If you are single, worth a try.qww

xcbxcreueru547

@mochi ~Oh,Unbelievable~~ My best friend Elena has just married to a cool black man. They fall in love through~~IntërracialFìshes. ℂoм ~This is a Specialized Online Interracial Dating Services. For black women meet white men, black men dating white women. Meet interracial singles living in your local area or in countries around the world. .)If you are single, worth a try.qww

fondue with cheddar

@xcbxcreueru547 OH, UNBELIEVABLE. WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE.

Pound of Salt

I don't get why Jane couldn't see the Facebook post? So as not to shame her?

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