Good Intention Gone Awry by Maureen Locher

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Maureen Locher photoGood intentions gone awry leave a person feeling kind of stupid. Such was the case this morning. First of all, waking up early was impossible as my son and I had stayed up playing the new Beatles Monopoly game last night. So I missed morning Mass. But I didn’t miss Bible Study, and in the course of our morning discussion our fearless leader told us all that he would have to cut our session short to fill in last minute for another priest at a funeral. I think “funeral” and I think “Mass.” First mistake of many. Our priest was concerned that this may be a sparsely-attended service, wondering if there’d be more than one person there. How sad. I kept thinking of that throughout Bible Study – to die with only one mourner. My friend Martha thought the same thing. So we hatched a plan.

After Father left Bible Study to get ready for the service, Martha and I decided we’d go to the church to fill up the cavernous space. This would take some of the sadness out of such a small showing as well as give our friend a bigger “audience” to address with his remarks. Now tell me, doesn’t that sound like a good idea?

Martha wanted to change her coat to look more presentable. No problem. Her house was nearby. I was wearing a sweatshirt under my coat so I borrowed a scarf to camouflage my casual attire. Neither of us had attended Mass that morning, and we were looking forward to our little adventure together. And we’re off!

Since I wasn’t exactly sure where the church was I called one of my sons who gave me directions. We arrived in plenty of time, but there were absolutely no cars in the church parking lot. Not a one. Not even Father’s van which meant we were in the wrong place. Mistake #2. Is there another Catholic church in this small city? I didn’t know. Martha didn’t know. Back on the phone. Good old Google told us that yes, in fact, there was. But how to get there from where we were? My son talked me through the directions until we found church #2. With five minutes to spare.

No cars in this parking lot either. Oh geez! Mistake #3. What to do? What more could we do? We had tried. We’d tried our best. Sally would only have that one mourner. We headed toward home.

Why, oh why, did I have to recognize our priest’s van? Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut and keep driving? But there it was – big as life. So we drove into the parking lot – of a funeral home – not a church – which meant – not a Mass.

At a little past noon we ruminated in the parking lot. We were late. I didn’t want to go in because, let me tell you, there were many cars in this parking lot. Sally had friends and family. Plenty of them. So I began to drive out of the lot. An iced tea at a nearby restaurant sounded good to me. We’d found the wild goose at the end of our chase and she had a gaggle of geese about her. But nooooo, Martha said we may as well go in since we were already there. May as well go in since we were already there? To a funeral service in a small room, not a big church, for someone we don’t know at all? At that moment a root canal sounded more appealing.

But Martha is older than I. And she really thought it best to go in. Refusing would have been like saying no to my mom. Reluctantly, and I mean extremely reluctantly, we walked in. I made Martha go first. Ever the chicken am I!

We were late, our friend was eulogizing, and in we walked to a gathering of total strangers. What must Father have thought? Thank God there were two seats in the back as we entered the room. I plunked down seeking invisibility. Short and sweet and soon it was over. But not completely over. Can you guess what’s coming? The last goodbye walk past the casket. There was no way I was doing it. I was not risking a mistake #4. As it was right then, no one else but the two funeral directors really noticed our untimely entrance. What would we say if family or friends stopped to inquire as to who we were? “Oh, we’re just funeral crashers. We were afraid no one would be here so we came.”  Lame. Lame. Lame.

Of course, the final procession began from the last row, but as dignified as possible, we ducked out the door. Martha wanted to wait to speak to our friend, but I wanted to run out of there as quickly as possible. And I won this one. We left and headed to the restaurant to drown the day’s memory with that iced tea.

Oh my gosh, what did those funeral directors think? We came late and refused to walk by the casket. What great friends of Sally we must have been! I hear that hell is paved with good intentions. Finally, the cherry on the sundae of this day was when I called our pastor, feeling the need to explain the circumstances of our unlikely presence at a funeral for someone we had never before seen. If “stupider” is a word that, my dear friends, is how I felt as I rapid-fired my explanation.

Live and learn. As God as my witness, I will never crash another funeral, no matter how well-intentioned.

Copyright 2010 Maureen Locher

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