Tuesday, May 3, 2011

encounter at the funeral

This isn't about the man we went there to honor. Who, whenever I think of chatting with him at family parties, makes me smile before my face even knows.

This is about the moment standing in the entryway of the huge Catholic church forty-five minutes before the service was to start. Mary and me standing together and I’m smiling and reacting as she talks with a middle-aged black man wearing glasses with hexagonal white frames. Something about his suit makes me think he is part of the church. He looks across to Stephen and says he not only loves Stephen's tie but wishes he could buy it off of Stephen right now. He has a tie collection. He estimates that he owns about two hundred ties.

“You have class!” he says loud across to Stephen in the echoing narthex, and we all laugh.

The man tells Mary that when he dies, he wants his daughter to sew a quilt out of his ties to give to his granddaughter.

He says, my granddaughter is beautiful. Blond and blue eyed. He says, I married a Caucasian. I wanted beautiful children.

Mary nods and smiles and responds, but her smile starts looking a bit plastered on her face. Tiny, confused line between her eyebrows.

He says, I taught my daughter that she should marry a Caucasian, too. And she did! And now I have a beautiful blond haired, blue eyed granddaughter!

Later, I go down the aisle and sit in a pew. I'm surrounded by faces. In the stained glass windows and in statues all around. Jesus and Mary, apostles and saints. All of them with white, white faces.


  1. Wow. Fascinating encounter. Of course I didn't hear any of that, but I never would have expected that he'd have said anything like that. He was such a poised, elegant man. He and the other gentlemen who worked for the funeral home were all African-American, so it's really surprising that he would feel that way....

  2. Wow..what an interesting encounter..I had to rad it twice as i missed the fact that he was a black man...really sad to me that he would feel that in order to have "beautiful" children he'd have to marry a caucasion.....
    Who's funeral was this?? What did I miss???