It's a weird coincidence that after I wrote this post, I got a message from Elisa Rolle informing me that Fugly was among her top ten "referrals" (I think that means click-throughs from her site) for April. A good cover truly is a gift that keeps on giving.
Anyway . . . this post is a downer. Don't read it if that will upset you. I just needed to vent.
I went to Jerry's funeral yesterday. Rather, I went to the visitation and realized I couldn't do more. But who, or what, was I visiting? (Oh my, it appears I've read too many blurbs!)
I cringed when I found out Jerr wasn't going to be cremated. All our other friends who've taken their final journeys over the past few years -- and there've been too many -- have been incinerated and their powdery cremains put in attractive containers. Ashes to ashes. I don't have a problem with this kind of exit, especially when the containers are surrounded by photos of their contents when those contents were intact and vital and happy. Flowers are pretty, too. The whole setup can help make an otherwise painful event tolerable. Poignant, yes, but not repugnant.
When I wrote Fugly, I did a good deal of research on behind-the-scenes mortuary practices: embalming, cosmetizing, "presentation" --manipulations of the dearly departed that most folks would rather not think about (and who can blame them?) The research didn't particularly bother me. Writing the Todd and Gabriel chapters didn't particularly bother me. Maybe that's because I was more focused on the characters and their developing relationship than on their work environment. I was focused on the "happily," not the "ever after." Know what I mean?
BUT. I couldn't do any focus-shifting yesterday, and I couldn't stand seeing those practices applied to someone I cared about. The realization hit me hard. I didn't want to see Jerry as a worked-over stiff. It was bad enough walking into that delicately scented, mauve-hued room and catching a glimpse of his frozen profile. Bad, bad enough, knowing he'd been propped just so on a satin pillow, his face artificially colored and artfully lit, his hands crossed unnaturally instead of gripping a Pabst can or pool cue or remote control.
JLA was with me -- a mixed blessing. (Let's just say he isn't a very emotional or even empathetic person.) I immediately told him, "I can't go up there [to the casket]. I don't want to see him that way." JLA, tough guy that he is, had no such qualms. He went up there. However, he did change his tune after he'd made the short trip. When he came back to my chair, he murmured, "Yeah, you're better off staying here. Really." Later, he was on the verge of telling me precisely why I'd been better off keeping my distance, but I abruptly said, "I don't want to hear it." Because, I inferred, whatever the results of all that embalming, cosmetizing, and posing, they couldn't have been pleasant.
I don't understand what Jessica Mitford called, in her 1963 classic of the same name, "the American way of death." I honestly don't know why a deceased person's loved ones would willingly subject themselves to the whole hideous ritual of a full funeral. Closure? I don't even get it in that context. I want to remember Jerry laughing or tending his pumpkin patch or cooking his secret-recipe barbecue sauce; I don't want to remember him as a creepy mannequin laid out in some tricked-out ride to nowhere. What the hell kind of final image is that?
I didn't go the cemetery. Couldn't. I recoiled at the thought of witnessing that part of the ritual too -- the massive, gaudy, environmentally unfriendly capsule descending into the dank earth, where it would sit for decades upon decades doing nothing but taking up space, leaking chemicals into the ground, and inhibiting a process nature wants to take place. It seemed like yet another desecration, disturbing and pointless.
As far as I was concerned, Jerry had left the building four days earlier. He'd done so while he was in his own house, on his own couch. It would've been much more appropriate if he'd been left alone and that piece of furniture buried or burned with him on it.
Shit, what a day.