I hate funerals and what I hate more is when it’s somebody I’m close to and what I hate even more than that is when I’m asked to say a few words during the proceedings when I’m not prepared.
On the drive over I’d been thinking about something so I tried to work it into my opening remarks but I couldn’t figure out a good metaphor for the fact that drinking milk is good for your teeth because of the calcium but if you drink a glass before going to bed without brushing your teeth it is very bad for your teeth because of the acidic pH. I know there is a milk life lesson buried in there somewhere but for the life of me I couldn’t come up with it.
Clearly this was not the eulogy people were expecting and it got even less eulogyish when I mentioned that I thought Sean Penn is only thought of as a good actor because he plays roles that you can’t be too critical of. I explained briefly that the reason it came to mind was that Penn portrayed Harvey Milk, the mayor who became a martyr for gay rights, in a movie. Sort of a milk theme. Anyway, how tough is it to play retards and gay guys?
A hush fell over the congregation. Looking up at the stained glass and crosses I wondered what the church’s official position on retards was. I know they are anti-gay so I was safe there and I thought I remembered somewhere in the bible where Jesus says some anti-retard stuff but I thought I’d better play it safe and move on given it was such a somber occasion.
I continued talking through the organists second attempt to play me off like I was some long-winded Academy Award winner whose acceptance speech was dragging on and threatening the upcoming Viagra and Toyota commercials but I persevered. I knew my friend’s funeral wasn’t sponsored by anyone so they can all relax and take a few moments to remember him.
I had a hunch he hated Penn like I did but I reminded everyone that I was sure that he loved Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Maybe that’s what I was trying to say all along… try to find the Spicoli in even a raging asshole like Sean Penn.
I turned that over in my mind and it didn’t ring true so I said as much.
Milk as a verb. To draw… to extract… to exploit. If milk was going to be, for better or worse, my theme than these mourners as my witness I was going to find a way to make a poignant point.
Did my friend, laying there so still and quiet, milk life for all it was worth? What is life worth anyway?
I began to cry.
I stared at him lying there, the empty husk of my friend. He would never drink a glass of milk before going to bed. He brushed twice a day for god’s sake. He wasn’t reckless enough to fall asleep with acid eating away at his enamel.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my antagorganist (an antagonist who is also an organist) raise her hands up to once again start Amazing Grace but I caught her eye with a look so full of fury that she slowly folded them and placed them back on her lap. I probably would have walked over and punched her in the face.
What did they want me to say? I couldn’t help but grieve over spilled milk.
Fuck I love that Billy Bragg song Milkman of Human Kindness. My friend had no doubt never heard it.
And never would.
In a few years he would be down to just his healthy bones and teeth. Then just dust.
Fucker didn’t move a muscle during the whole funeral. Just laid there as I couldn’t find the words… and I used about all of them before I finally gave up on finding some milk analogy. Gave up on thinking my friend would step in and save me from making an ass of myself.
Halfway back to my pew it occurred to me that I would soon have to bury all this hurt and that my friend was also going to be buried and that somewhere in that there has to be something moving and beautiful but as I turned to head back to the podium I was restrained by some of his family and moved to the back of the church.