Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Last Respects

Some people consider being asked to serve as a pallbearer a pain. I've heard men say that it's right up
there with serving on jury duty, or donating blood. But I've never looked at it in that light.
I consider it an honor. It's one last thing you can do for someone on this earth. 
My sister-in-law, that I've known almost as long as I've known my wife, asked if I'd be a pallbearer for her only son.
It wasn't a hard decision. In fact there was no hesitation in my voice when I said I would. It was an easy decision.
I have a photograph of him when he was about five. He was sitting on the hood of his dad's 1961 Chrysler Imperial with his two older sisters. They were all smiling as children do.
In the years when my marriage was young, all our nieces and nephews spent as much time with us as possible, because we were "the cool aunt and uncle."
Even when were were broke, we had hotdogs, some chips, and ice tea. We also had vinyl records of the music they loved.
We introduced John Michael and our other nieces and nephews to The Eagles, Queen, The Doobie Brothers, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.
I thought about all these things yesterday standing in the sweltering sun beside the graveside of John Michael. 
He must have had an inkling that his days were numbered, because he'd told his kids that he wanted Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen played at his funeral.
His mom is a religious woman and didn't feel comfortable with the song being played in the chapel. But she was OK with it being played by the graveside.  His ex-wife Diane produced a small boombox, and punched the play button with her index finger.
All of a sudden, Freddy Mercury was singing to all that was gathered. The clergy frowned noticibly, and the undertaker squirmed. But I found myself smiling as Freddie sang: 
Mama, ooh,
Didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters. 

RIP John Michael


  1. My condolences on the passing of your nephew.
    What a blessing to feel the love that he felt for you and your wife and you both for him.

  2. Anonymous10:08 PM

    That was lovely, Rick--you made me cry. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  3. Very moving post!
    The lyrics of Freddy Mercury's song are heart-rending.

  4. Hello Rick...

    Very sorry to hear of your nephew's death. It's never easy to lose someone we love.

    I think it was great his song choice was played.

    Your sister-in-law must be very sad. May her son rest in eternal peace. Susan

  5. Good uncles don't hesitate when asked for help. I love your memories of your neices and nephews.. And I would have smiled with you at the choice of the graveside song.

  6. I am so sorry. He has that faraway look in his eyes. Glad his chosen song was played out to him. Condolences and sympathies to all of you. Take care

  7. My deepest condolences Rick - and I'm so happy to hear his request was played - it's his last request after all - it shouldn't offend anyone's sensibilities?
    And I happen to love the song ( and Freddy Mercury )

  8. I am so sorry for the loss of your nephew... my thoughts are with you and your family...

    How nice that his final request was honored...

  9. So very sorry for the loss. Tears are shed for the loss of a young one. Taking a step back and...

  10. I think it's great that his song got played. Too many people think funerals have to follow rules. How silly. And I agree, being a pallbearer is an honor, not a chore.

  11. This is a very touching post. I am so sorry for your loss. And although I do understand that for some people it's uncomfortable, I agree that it is an honour to be asked to be a pallbearer. May your nephew rest in peace.

  12. Very moving post, Rick. I'l glad that you and his family were able to pay tribute in the way that was best suited for your nephew.

  13. I'm so sorry for your family's loss. I agree with you, I think being asked to be a pallbearer is an honor. You blessed your sister-in-law greatly at probably the saddest day of her life. To bury one's only son, so sad.

  14. So sorry for your loss.

  15. What a special tribute for your nephew. I think it was wonderful that you could give this last service to him and his family. I'm sure you could have given a loving eulogy also. Just reading this today brought tears to my eyes. Seems like you knew his true spirit better than the glaring Pastor or the squirming funeral director. I would love to hear that song next time I take a walk through the cemetery. Hugs to you and your family.

  16. So sorry about your nephew's passing. Perfect song, perfect day. Blessing on you all.

  17. I'm glad he got to tell his family about the music he wanted. Queen could send off anyone happily.



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