Laughter, followed by fits of crying, ending with ennui. That has been the cycle I have followed for the past week. Am I going completely insane? Maybe.
If you read my blog on a semi-regular basis, you’ll remember that my brother died almost two months ago. Missed that post? Catch up here. Don’t worry; I’ll wait.
Last week, my parents and I traveled to the homeland to have a wake/closure ceremony/cry-fest. It was weird, dark, and cathartic; much like the rest of my family’s get-togethers.
My father likened the trip to entering a parallel universe; things seem the same, but are just a little off.
Let’s start with the cake. My family, and more specifically, my mother, has a twisted sense of humor. Her logic is that since my brother has died, he’s obviously a ghost now, so we really should have a cake with ghosts, and maybe a grim reaper in case anyone didn’t get the intent of the cake, with chipper ghosts alone, to wish my brother well in the great beyond.
Try explaining this to the bakery at the Ralph’s.
Instead of asking for a grim reaper dessert, we chose a Halloween cake. That’s not weird at all, nearly 7 months after the holiday.
Of course, all the poor man behind the counter has is a bag of Casper the friendly ghost rings. He offers to make a black and orange cake, but that would just be ridiculous. So we skip around the real intent of the cake and ask for one with chocolate frosting and an assortment of Casper rings.
I also opt to have the cake filled with strawberries and whipped cream. Would my brother have wanted that? I don’t know but it sure sounded yummy. It’s not like he’s going to have a slice.
And what do we inscribe on the cake? “See you soon?” “Sorry you’re not here to eat this delicious cake?” What’s appropriate for a ghost cake? We end up with a simple “We’ll miss you” message and hope for the best.
Now, to explain a little something about my family, we usually create a poster board full of pictures from the deceased person’s life. I don’t know if this is common at other funerals, because I haven’t been to too many outside my family.
Anyway, it’s up to my mom and me to decorate the board. We picked out pictures before we flew out, making sure we had good hair in all of the photos where we appeared. And we went to Michael’s to pick out a few embellishments.
Of course, our choices were not angels or warm sentiments. We wanted to keep with our ghost theme and found a Halloween pack with the phrase, “Happy Haunting.” It was really too good to pass up. My mom and I were laughing so hard we were crying and I honestly don’t know if we were amused or sad or both.
Needless to say, the patrons at Michael’s gave us a wide berth.
Before you think we’re too tasteless, we did not buy the sticker that read, “Bon Voyage.” Although, I was very tempted.
The family gathering was an understated affair, and other than the ghost cake and photo board it could have been mistaken for a family birthday party.
The guest of honor was even there, albeit in a basket.
My brother was cremated, and my other brother brought the ashes in something larger than an urn but smaller than a breadbox. I can only describe it as a basket. Not quite like the one in which Moses was found, though.
As the festivities were winding down, someone asked my mom if she wanted to take some of the ashes and sprinkle them somewhere meaningful. She said yes.
This is how I ended up holding a plastic Solo cup partially filled with the ashes of my brother. I did not need to be this intimately acquainted with him, but I was willing to do anything for my mother.
Side note… The awful truth about cremation? It’s not a pile of ash. There are bits. I will leave it at that.
Later she swore that she had been joking and had no clue what to do with the ashes. We transferred them to a child-proof pill bottle to prevent spillage, because that was not a horror we wanted to deal with. All I could picture was the scene from that Woody Allen movie where he sneezes on the giant pile of cocaine.
I do not appreciate my mother’s humor.
So, on Sunday, we travelled north and left him in a place we thought he would enjoy for eternity. Truthfully, I found it incredibly difficult to leave him. It was too final. Funny since the reason for the gathering was to have closure. I am nothing if not a loveable ball of contradictions.
If you’re ever in California and run into Casper, say hi and offer my brother your sympathies on his crazy family. I know I’ll have a lot to explain when I see him again.