I been resistin’ writin’ bout this ‘cause we Black folks is real touchy and tend to argue about certain thangs: church stuff, Jesse Jackson, and grits (salt or sugar); but we gots to talk about funerals. I was going to try to wait to bring up the subject at the annual-end-of-the summer folks BBQ, but ReRe’s marathon homecoming made me realize that we in need of an immediate mind-shift.
I’ma get straight to the seed of dis here peach: we, Black folks, got this life/death equation all wrong. Ya hear me? I never took no fancy math like Geometry or nothin like my grandbabies do, but I got a big-time degree in life. And I’m tellin you as sure-minded as when I told my Jimmy about marrying that fast tail girl who ended up taking all his money, that our equation is upside down and its messin’ us up.
We are willin to suffer in life because of the promise of death (and ultimately heaven). We will stay in jobs that we hate, relationships that are unsatisfying, and refuse to indulge or spoil ourselves because we believe happiness is waiting for us on the other side — it’s then we will get our just rewards.
I done seen plenty of folks praisin’ friends who are workin themselves to the bone, taking care of others and never themselves. The advice isn’t, “Girl, take the day off and rest,” or “you need to tell your sister to help you care for yo daddy” or “go buy yo-self somethin with that money instead of buying that bad ass child of yours another pair of shoes. Naw, we don’t say none of that. Instead we tell em to wait for relief cause their time is coming—once dey dead: “Girl, there’s a special place in heaven for you.”
Lot of our people has the understandin that death is the best part of life. We have celebrations of people leaving dis here world bigger than any we have for people when they are living in it. We wait until death to declare our love. We start go-fund-me accounts, get gold plated coffins, hire limos, singers, elaborate floral arrangements to show the people who have transitioned how much they were loved and to ensure that they are properly sent to heaven. People who never showed up for a person’s birthday party on a Saturday, will sho nuff take off work to attend a person’s funeral on a weekday. A funeral should not be our biggest celebration, just our final one.
Seems some of us got in our head that the time to show the world how much you love somebody is after they’ve transitioned. Folks even get competitive. Points given for the length of a funeral, the fanciest casket, the number of floral arrangements, how many times the pastor had to wipe his forehead sweat, the number of mourners and how loud dey get, how good the singer can blow, and if the food served at the repast made you wanna slap somebody or not.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in memorializing and honoring our deceased. I’ve been to so many funerals of loved ones dat I gots funeral-dresses (dresses I only wear for funerals). And certainly we should make these occasions special, but come on ya’ll – some of us done driven 100 miles past ridiculous.
It’s wrong I tell you. Dis life goes faster than a dragonfly’s wings. Enjoy the time you got. Love on the folks around you in the time you still have with dem. We all gonna suffer. Life gonna bring us all to our knees; but dat ain’t all dat life gotta be. We all should gets off our knees and walk, dance, play, go, do. You was designed for great things here on dis earth. Get yo flowers now and give em.
I sho nuff believe in heaven, and if the Maker ain’t real picky, I may get there one day. But I sho nuff believe in life too; and I believe in the living and in celebrating the living. I don’t believe that all of our gifts are waiting for us on the other side—we got a big one right here: life. Let’s rejoice and celebrate it. Let’s dance like we hit the numbers, the lottery – ‘cause if you think about it, we kinda did.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more