In Janet Evanovich’s series of Stephanie Plum novels there is a character who loves going to funerals. She’s a granny who enjoys the ceremonials, the socializing, the luncheons, and the opportunity to criticize. I think I’m turning into her. I go to celebrations of lives a bit too often these days, and I’m starting to compare them. I don’t use a star system, but I could.
They would get one star if the eulogy from the life-long friend is warm and tender, and another star if there’s some humour in it. There would be a star if there is a slide show of the person’s life, with an additional half star if it has a musical sound track. If the songs of praise are sung with spirit, one star, and if we are lucky enough to have a soloist with a good voice, two stars. The preacher gets a star if he or she keeps the sermon to twenty minutes, and two if they relate what they are saying to the life of the deceased person. If they really do celebrate that person’s life they can have yet another star.
While I’m at it, I could give the venue stars, too. If I have to sit on an unpadded seat for ninety minutes, I’ll take one star away. If everyone has easy access to the guest register, the venue will get half a star. If we are able to eat within twenty minutes of the ceremony, another half a star. If the lunch is good, one more star.
At my husband’s memorial service, the minister who met Geoff in the hospice dominated the final event of his life with a lengthy sermon. He talked too long, and he used the opportunity to spread the word and invite people to the faith. It’s the Catch ’Em While They’re Down school of evangelism. He meant well, but he would get only one star.
On that occasion there was only one book for people to sign, and most people didn’t even know it was there; half a star. The eulogy was witty and charming; two stars. The songs were sung with energy, and the soloist was great; two stars. The luncheon was excellent, but it took ages for people to file into the reception room; one star.
This plan definitely has merit. I could even take the star system online and have a kind of Yelp for funerals. That way the funeral directors and preachers would get some helpful feedback. I have a hunch they don’t always know how well they have done. In the absence of an evaluation, they probably assume everything is fine.
What shall I call this funereal internet Michelin Guide? ‘Funstars’ would combine the word ‘funeral’ with the star system, but it doesn’t sound sufficiently sombre. How about ‘Memorial Points’ or ‘Celebration Scores’? No, those sound too pompous. What do you think of ‘Hear After’ or ‘For Heaven’s Sake’ ?
Yes, I’m liking this idea more and more. Granny Plum would approve.