My Little Etiquette Shop: Lessons Learned at…a funeral?

Last week was quite a week. A fair bit of time was given to supporting a grieving family who lost their mother, our neighbor.

Her funeral brought out my contemplative side.  The service was unique, in that the rabbi thought he was a stand up comedian.  At first I braced myself: this was a train wreck.  Knowing he wasn’t someone who knew the family well, but had met with them briefly the day before, I dreaded where he was going with his goofy humor.  However, bit by bit, he charmed everyone in the room (myself included) with his puns, and the way he spoke more about the people present than the one who was gone. He really brought her to life in the way he “riffed” on each meaningful relationship, right down to mock-lecturing her son’s boss saying, “keep an eye on him.”

I love and respect Jewish culture, our wedding was quite traditional. But, as an employee at a floral design studio, and lover of flowers I am comforted by flowers at funerals, which are contrary to Jewish tradition. (I’ll let wiser folk explain).  One woman at the service brought flowers, completely innocently.  The same jovial rabbi spoke a little too sharply to her for my taste about the fact that they were “not allowed.”  From the row behind her, it looked like she felt bad. I often mangle Emily Post’s famous quote about how keeping people comfortable around you makes your behavior proper, no matter what. We’ll make the exact quote lesson 1 from yesterday, followed by the other two.

1) Mind your manners “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” -Emily Post.  Don’t make people feel bad, especially in a sensitive situation like a funeral. <ahem Rabbi…>

2) Trust a professional to do their job. That Rabbi wasn’t going to risk corny humor if he didn’t know where he was going with it, and that he would be able to touch people. Have a little faith, and even when things seem like they are going wrong, they are most likely going to turn in the right direction.

2) Laugh when you want to cry. This is of course a very serious application of that principle.  But it applies in so many situations. If you reflexively tear up in response to a bizarre/awful/terrible/shocking event in your life, take a deep breath, and try to reframe. There’s got to be something funny about what happened. You just have to find that piece of it and let it tickle you.  It takes the air out of almost anything, and you can begin to put the pieces back together.

Have a happy, grateful week everyone! Count your blessings.

Be well, and love well.