Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Church Giggles and Cowboys

I am a hospice nurse...when I tell people what I do for a living I typically get this type of response,"Oh my gosh you must be an angel, I don't know how you people do it, etc." Add on top of this the fact that I also care for pediatric hospice patients and I typically get elevated to sainthood before people have an opportunity to find out about my potty mouth.

In some professions people get to take fancy trips for conferences, go play golf with clients, etc. I get invited to funerals. Lots of funerals...big funerals,little funerals, impromptu funerals, city funerals, country funerals, funerals of every religious and nonreligious type, and then there are the funerals for children. Ugh...there is nothing quite as depressing as a funeral for a child. Unless it is one of those funerals I like to call, "giggle worthy."

These are the funerals that lead me to have inappropriately hysterical reactions that typically include stifled giggles and crying due to the perversely odd or eccentric goings on at what most of us believe should be solemn, moribund occasion. To begin with, the child in question was only a couple months old and had been born with a panoply of congenital defects that were incompatible with a healthy life. She never went home from the hospital and was only on hospice services for about a week prior to her death. She had large, loving family and the funeral was held at a small funeral home chapel.

The casket was wee tiny and pink and the baby was dressed angelically with a small rosary draped over her tiny hands. I paid my respects and sat down amongst the other mourners. It is relevant to mention at this point that I was the lone anglo person in the chapel and the only English speaker. Other than that it appeared to be about the usual for a funeral.

And then the gentleman who was providing the singing for the service stood up and everything usual went out the window...or should I say, "La ventana." Due to the large latino congregation it was safe to say there were an equal number of infants and toddlers to adults. All in various states of dress from the toddler brother of the decease dressed out in full cowboy regalia to the diaper clad amigo on my left. But I digress, back to the singing...

The gentleman singing appeared to be hovering around 80 years and carried an old rosewood guitar solemnly to the front of the chapel and began to strum it with no apparent direction. I noticed just as he opened his mouth to sing that there were only 4 strings on the 5 string guitar, but he did not allow that to deter him from bursting in to "De Colores" at full voice at which point every person under the age of three in the chapel began to cry, howl, or sob along like some sort of bereaved chicano wolf pack.

It must be said that I tried really really hard not to laugh, I even forced myself to stare at the deceased to try and avoid mirth...but as he continued to passionately sing, I began to giggle, discreetly of course. The song ended or he gave up because he was tired of being drowned out by the wolf pups and he took his seat.

The chaplain stood and began the funeral and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the woman next to me rifling through her diaper bag with the kind of desperation that means only one thing. Poop. Sure enough, within seconds I caught the scent of the diaper clad bambino on the floor between us as the flowers on the coffin began to droop. God bless her, necessity being the mother of invention she found a diaper and a baby wipe and since she didn't want to miss the service, plopped down on the floor in the aisle and changed the diaper...and nobody noticed.

Nobody but me of this point my giggles had subsided and I was now fighting back stinging tears from the stench and hoping my overactive gag reflex would not resurface. She finished her work-which quite frankly was amazing-she cleaned the entire surface of that child with one baby wipe-it was like watching da Vinci paint the Sistine chapel with a set of Prang watercolors...I was duly impressed and she thankfully excused herself to deposit the gag inducing diaper in a trash receptacle.

We had now arrived at the scripture readings and the crowd was getting restless...lots of wiggles, stern looks from the mamacitas, etc. Except for the parents of the baby we were there to mourn...they were entrenched in their grief and didn't seem to notice or be concerned by the fact that the previously mentioned two year old cowboy had started undressing in front of the casket. God bless him he even removed his boots and put them back on after getting his pants off. At which point he grabbed the rosary out of his sister's coffin and began swinging it around his head like a lasso.

At this point I was chewing on my tongue hard enough to draw blood and thinking every morbid thought I could to stifle the belly laugh within when one of his older sisters got up and gathered his clothes and pointed sternly at the family pew where he marched in all his glory back to sit.

Another song, "Amazing grace" again with the crying babies, I have now been given a handful of Kleenex by a woman in the pew behind me who evidently thinks my shaking and holding my face in my hands are due to grief as opposed to mirth. Tears are now rolling down my cheeks and I join in with the other mourners and the crying babies and sing along as best I can in an effort to distract myself.

The service appears to be winding down and I have regained my composure when a late arrival makes his appearance. Uncle of the decedent. Walking sideways. Carrying an open can of Lone Star Beer.

At least he kept his clothes on.

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