A Viewing to Remember

Spring is an amazing season. Flowers bloom, baby animals are born, the world awakens, and…people attend funerals. Yeah, I know that last one is a bummer, but it’s true. I’ve attended at least three funerals in the last eight weeks. A distant relative died, then a small child with leukemia who the community had rallied around, and finally a co-worker. There’s a certain kind of stress to dealing with loss, even if you’re not that close to those who passed. As it happened, I was actually semi-close to the co-worker in a very indirect way, but that’s not why it was stressful. It was stressful because my cousin, whom we’ll call Bonnie, is friends with a really close friend of the co-worker, and that friend, apparently, doesn’t wear rings that fit. 
And thus begins the whole story…
The person who passed away, we’ll call him Joe, was a co-worker of mine, but in a completely different department in another branch in a suburb of our city. In other words, I didn’t know him at all and barely recognized his name. However, one of my colleagues who did his same job and collaborated with him all the time because she traveled from site to site knew him really well and was devastated by the loss. This co-worker, whom we’ll call Lena, wanted to go to the viewing but hates anything death-related and needed emotional support to pay her last respects. I volunteered to go with her because Lena is a lovely soul and because viewings don’t bother me in the least. As it turns out, Lena is also friends with my cousin Bonnie, who also volunteered to go to the viewing as moral support. So Lena and Bonnie and I all end up going to the viewing to pay respects to Joe. Simple enough?
Oh, hardly.
We get to the funeral parlor and everything seems to be going to plan. Lena is weeping with Joe’s wife and children and mother and cousins (he came from a HUGE family) and then shuffles, sobbing, to the casket to view her friend one last time. Bonnie and I hang out on the fringes, both of us being respectful and me interacting with my colleagues who knew Joe to varying degrees when we weren’t reading the cards on the flowers. Finally, Lena heads our way and we’re all ready to leave. We get to my car—I drove—and suddenly Lena lets out a shriek.
“I’ve lost my wedding ring!”
She shouts this in the middle of the parking lot with mourners ambling by, and they all look at her like, “Who cares? Joe’s dead.”
But Bonnie and I cared. We knew, in Lena’s mental state, losing her wedding ring would be tipping point from upset to hysterical, or maybe even wigged completely out. We calmed her down and finally surmised that her ring had been in place up to the point of—you guessed it—viewing Joe.
So Bonnie, being rather fearless and goal-oriented, decided to backtrack and followed Lena’s footsteps from the time she entered the viewing until she left, paying special attention to the part where Bonnie wept over Joe in the casket. Let me just say this at this point that I should have known better than to trust Bonnie.
Because here’s what happened: She gets to the casket and acts mournful in a way that allows her to scope the area around the deceased. As it turns out, Lena, who’d recently lost weight, had put her hand on the side of the casket long enough for the ring in question to drop into the bedding, or whatever you call that stuff on the inside of a casket. Bonnie spots the ring waaaaaay down in the bottom of the bedding, nearly under Joe’s arm. If one more mourner sobs loud enough over the casket, the ring will slide deep into the lining and it will take some digging around to get to it.
As fate would have it, a very large co-worker, Maggie, who is very…large, leaned over the casket sobbing uncontrollably next to Bonnie, and Bonnie watched Lena’s ring take the plunge into the depths of “Your wedding ring is getting buried with a dead guy-ville.”
But you must remember Bonnie is my cousin. And we both grew up with superstitious crazy people who held the belief that if you don’t touch the dead person whose viewing it is, you’ll have dreams about them. So my cousin and I grew up touching a lot of dead people. Therefore, Bonnie has no compunction about retrieving Lena’s ring. However, Bonnie was not raised under a barn, so she knows that digging around in a casket for something might make a few people very uncomfortable and cause a scene. The best way to offset that, Bonnie figured, was to…cause a scene.
So, Bonnie starts wailing and thrashing around the casket and Joe, throwing herself across the body and choking through her tears. People are horrified, and it takes three funeral parlor workers to pull her off Joe.
I know all this because, knowing Bonnie, who promised to get Lena’s ring back “no matter what,” I found myself a window to peak through and see what was going on. It was like driving past a car accident…I couldn’t look away.
By the time the funeral director, a security officer, and two other mourners escorted Bonnie to the parking lot, where she fell dramatically into my arms, the ruse was in full effect. I think, at one point, Bonnie believed her own grief, even though she didn’t even know Joe. All I can say is, "That's my cousin!"
As soon as her grim-faced escorts hustled back into the viewing, Bonnie grinned and held up something shiny. As soon as Lena saw it, she squealed, grabbed it, and gave Bonnie a huge bear hug. Apparently, Bonnie had been digging around for Lena’s ring as she crawled all over Joe under false pretenses, and she finally got it.

We all drove home in silence—Bonnie grinning in triumph, Lena smiling at her ring, and me checking the rearview mirror for the police, because it’s got to be some kind of felony to fake grief to retrieve a wedding ring and grope a a newly deceased person under false pretenses.

Well, that’s my spring so far. How’s yours going? Please do share in the comments.


Christine said...

OMG this is HYSTERICAL! It's gotta go into one of your novels...

Terry Spear said...

Hilarious!!! :)