I Hate Wearing Black to a Funeral


June 7, 2011 by Marj Hatzell

Wanna know what the problem with funerals is? They are sad. And dreary. And boring. And people get all kinds of dressed up in uncomfortable clothing and cry and shiz. Ugh. Hate them.  As my husband says, funerals are for the living.  And the living need to liven it up and live a little. When I go, I want it to be a celebration. I want an effing party. I want folks to dress up and have a good time. Or not dress up and have a good time. Or have a pool party. NO!  A TOGA PARTY!  Complete with kegs of beer and funnels a la Animal House.  That would be a blast, no?  Wanna come?  I’ll let you know when it is.

The Guy I Live With’s Grandmother died yesterday. It was not exactly unexpected. I mean, she had been in failing health for a few years but the last nine months were getting kinda bad and the past two months especially difficult. And his Grandmom, she was a spitfire. She was full of life when she was alive. She sang Opera, loved to perform in theaters, was a seamstress, read everything she could get her hands on, watched birds, loved gardening, spent every summer in the woods at her cabin, basically she loved everything I love to do. But Grandmom was the kind of person that always wanted to be different. Unique, even. In fact, when I met her the first time the Hubs brought me home, they nearly tried to poison me and make me eat things like ZUCCHINI and MASHED TATERS WITH CARROTS IN THEM.  And I died then came back to life then I ate my dinner and it was good. And then she taught me to eat stuff like other vegetables and stop being a vegetarian and eat meat and fish and stuff. She also forced me to learn about Opera (Hubs and I lived with her for a short time, he lived there quite a few years growing up and in college) once when we were stuck inside during a snowstorm. For five days. Snow and Ice and Grandmom and me and Opera. For FIVE DAYS. And somehow the Hubs escaped to our third floor lair and played video games while I listened to Tosca and La Boheme and Carmen. And got the pants beat off me in Trivial Pursuit.

She traveled the world to visit the exchange students that stayed with her over the years. When her husband died when he was far too young she sucked it up and moved on and lived. She loved her cats and dog, sang in the church choir, recruited me for the bell choir one year and played the piano. She whistled in perfect pitch (even if it drove me batty because I have this issue with sound, see). She had a beautiful voice. She sang on the radio at one point in her life and even recorded a few songs.

Thursday is her funeral. My husband, who isn’t the most visibly emotional guy, has pretty much just slept for a few days. He is sad, he remembers the times that Grandmom was fun and used to wake him up when he was a kid and take him down the dirt road from the family cabin  and make him watch meteors and comets and other astronomical phenomenons in the middle of the night in the pitch black woods.  He remembers the time she tried to steam chicken nuggets because she didn’t have a whole bunch of experience with them, see.

I hate wearing black to a funeral. I know it is supposed to signify mourning and respect and whatnot but to me, black is a cop-out. When my grandmom died two years ago, just shy of her ninety-fourth birthday, I wore rose, because rose was her favorite color.  When my Nana died twelve years ago I wore a flowered dress because flowers made her happy to see. So for Grandmom’s funeral I am wearing this crazy flowery sparkly sundress because I think she’d like it. I don’t think I ever saw her wear a plain color. She was more of the crazy print type.

And she planned her own funeral and obituary and everything. She planned it thirteen years ago and was proud of paying 1998 prices for a 2010 or later funeral.

So Thursday I am wearing that crazy dress. To remind me that Grandmom liked things a little more unique. And we’re going to see family and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Because life’s too short and it’s meant to be lived.


14 thoughts on “I Hate Wearing Black to a Funeral

  1. Katy says:

    I am in such agreement with this. The last funeral I went to was for a ten year old girl, which is so wrong in other ways, but the point is our families all wore purple to the wake. Purple was her favorite color. Purple balloons were strung along the route from the church to the funeral home, purple flowers placed on the grave. There were bubbles and crayons for the guests. She would have liked her funeral.

  2. I say wear what you’re comfortable wearing. I wore a blue flowery dress to my grandma’s funeral. I agree that funerals could be a bit more lively. I too want a kegger or something (is that the Irish?).

  3. rockle says:

    Funerals are bad enough to begin with — you shouldn’t have to dress like you’re dead, too. I whole-heartedly approve of wearing what you think Grandmom would have liked to see you in (and I bet you’ll look fabulous). I almost never wear black to funerals any more, unless they’re for people I didn’t know all that well or wasn’t particularly close to (and even then, I usually wear dark neutrals + a little color, e.g., dark brown pants and a sage green sweater). When my great-uncle passed away just this past winter, one of his daughters wore the dress she wore to her engagement party and the other wore the dress she wore to her son’s wedding. Both beautiful dresses, and neither one black. For my own father’s funeral I will probably wear something pink, because he loves pink and wears it regularly and totally rocks it. I’ve told my husband that there are “rules” about my funeral — seriously, I have pre-selected music and I want a bartender and waiters serving food on sticks and everything — and one of the biggies is, “This should be a CELEBRATION of my life so there should be absolutely NO BLACK.” I’ve asked him to turn people away at the door if they show up in “funeral clothes,” but he won’t agree to that.

  4. Janet says:

    Yesterday was my step-mom’s funeral. Real small – 25 from my family, 1 cousin & wife, 1 stranger. All the ladies were in black or dull brown. I wore black slacks w/ a hot pink linen jacket. My 10-year-old was in turquois and flowers, the 12-year-old wore wore blue & white. I think it might have something to do with that we (me, my girls and 8-year-old son), knew grandma, we took care of her, we visited her in the hospital, stuggled with the wheel-chair and oxygen to take her to Steak ‘n Shake for Easter dinner, etc. Even though they are in the same area, some of my sibs and their kids/grandkids hadn’t seen grandma in over 2 years.

    When we choose what to wear are we showing respect for the person who died, the surviving family (spouse), or just doing what we think society wants us to do?

    • I think sometimes people just wear what they think is “appropriate” and not what they think the person who died wants. Like hubs said, funerals are for the living. The dead person REALLY DOESN”T CARE at that point. Honest to goodness.

      I’m all about that hot pink linen jacket. I less than three linen.

  5. Heather says:

    My mother passed away 7 years ago and we wanted to celebrate her life and not focus on her death. We all agreed to wear bright colors because we wanted to honor her wonder life. She was very talented in sewing and anything crafty. We brought all the amazing things she had created through out her life to showcase her gift. Everyone shared there wonderful stories they had of her. It helped us focus on what we had instead of our great loss.

    • The guys all work blue or white shirts and khaki pants because it was so effing hot. I wore my sparkly flower dress, his aunt wore a blue and white flowered jacket and his mom wore pink. I think we did it justice.

  6. Blue Sky says:

    What a lovely tribute to your Grandmother-in-law. I’d say she’d love the dress you’re planning to wear. Can I also say that the best funerals and wakes are in Ireland, and it sounds like she’d like to be buried here. I always feel uplifted after going to an Irish wake: they’re a celebration of the person who died and a support to those left behind x

  7. Monica says:

    We recently lost a college buddy to cancer. He was 40. All of us who went to U of A with him and remained his friend/s over the years proudly spirited our crimson, white and in my case a houndstooth dress that he liked. It was beautiful, and while the content was still funeral-ey, it was indeed a celebration of our friend as we knew him. Wear that dress of yours proudly!

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