Bringing up the rear of every funeral i meet you yesterday

Quote by Herman Melville: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the m”

Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts-For Actors, Performers, Writers, Do you know that in the nineteenth century (and probably before) there were and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet then, I account it high time to. on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish. It is an odd topic, but one that most of us end up investigating at It all starts with your funeral director – not someone you'll have on It's an important, though brief, relationship and if you don't like the company once you meet them, you . And do bring all the flowers from the church back to the party if they.

If the cemetery is distant from the funeral, there likely will be a motorcade or procession. Keep in mind that the chairs at graveside are for the immediate family members or the infirm ; others will be expected to stand.

It is not polite to laugh loudly in a cemetery, engage in cell phone conversations during the service, or sit, walk, or lean on gravestones or markers. Avoid walking directly on graves if you can stay between the headstones. Clothing choice for a graveside service is the same as for a funeral service: Photography should be done only with the permission of the family. What can I do to help the family of the deceased? The grieving family is often hesitant to take up general offers because they feel they may be imposing.

Help in the form of financial assistance must be done discreetly. Even if the family is in dire straits financially, it may be a matter of pride to keep that situation confidential, and cash donations can be embarrassing.

It is generally inappropriate to approach the family and offer cash directly. If you are asked by the family to be a pallbearer, consider it an honor. You should accept unless you have physical limitations that would keep you from helping to lift and carry the casket.

If you must decline, do so with regret, and explain why. Pallbearers usually carry or, in the case of honorary pallbearers, accompany the casket to the front of the church or funeral home, to the hearse, and from the hearse to the burial site. He is covered, at first; then, after the nurses have removed the tubes and disconnected the monitors that sustained him, uncovered.

But now they wonder how easily a photograph of the gaunt and balding man on the bed could be recognized.

How to do a funeral

They feel tremendously solicitous toward him yet also somehow ennobled, as if they have come into the presence of a force larger and stronger than themselves. It is not fame, exactly; it is history, and Lesher keeps thinking that no matter what happens to him in the course of his life, no one will ever be able to take this moment away from him.

So many people had encounters with Ali when he was alive: Lesher never did; neither did Kessinger or Roggenkamp. They encounter Ali dead, yet even with his life fled, his power persists, as if it's part of the atmosphere around his body. They are in the room with Muhammad Ali for 45 minutes. They have responsibility for Muhammad Ali for 45 minutes, until Roggenkamp departs to drive Lonnie Ali home.

But there is a problem as they go to leave; Ali was not admitted as Muhammad Ali.

bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet

He was admitted under an alias, confusing one of the funeral home directors. Finally, Kessinger says, "Look, it's Muhammad Ali. It is the singular advantage of living with an immobilized man -- he is always there.

Now he is not. She was his caregiver even before she was his wife, and she has been his wife for 30 years. People mistakenly assume that she has prepared for this eventuality, this night; that she prepared to be his widow as soon as she married him. She is in shock. When she was -- when they were -- younger, she saw him snatch flies from the air. She saw him bleed from a cut one day and wake up the next morning with the cut nearly erased.

She believed his blood was different from the blood of other humans. Even much later, when her husband was in exile from his body because of Parkinson's disease, he was not in exile from himself -- he was able to speak most mornings, and when he was finally silenced, he communicated through his touch and through the look in his eyes. He paid attention; he nodded; he squeezed her hand.

And so now, in the degree of pain she experiences, she does not feel as though she's lost an old man with a terminal illness.

Proper etiquette when attending funeral services

She feels as though she's lost a child. Jeff Gardner wears a suit and tie for the embalming. It's a Saturday morning, and there is very little traffic, human or automotive, stirring the desert calm of Mesa, Arizona. It doesn't matter that no one is likely to see him. Over the past 30 years, Gardner has embalmed, by his estimate, some 5, bodies, and he has worn a suit and tie for all of them that have not presented a risk of infection. He is a stout man, fastidious, with a contemplative manner, a bass note in his voice and a taste for somber suits and splendid shoes.

He wears the clothes he wears as a matter of reverence -- because, as he sometimes says, you never know when you'll go from looking at the body to meeting the family. Gardner is Catholic; he is about to embalm a Muslim at the Bunker Family Funeral Home, which is owned by a family of Mormons; but his trade has a way of erasing distinctions. The day before, he flew in from Louisville, the only passenger on a private jet, carrying the case of embalming fluid that would allow Ali's body to be preserved in a way not forbidden to Muslims.

Gardner had learned about this necessity about eight years earlier, when he and Woody Porter, his associate at the A. It was the meeting that set Muhammad Ali on the course of which today represents the first fulfillment -- the planning of his own death and burial. Ali was in attendance; so was Lonnie; so were their lawyers and their accountant; and so were Zaid Shakir and Timothy Gianotti, an Islamic studies professor called in to advise the Alis.

Ali was well into what Gianotti calls his "purification," his humbling at the hands of Allah. But at the time, he still had his good days. And even at his sickest -- even at his last -- he never stopped knowing exactly who he was.

He was, in Shakir's description, "a praying man" who understood he belonged to Allah. But he also knew he was Muhammad Ali, and so belonged to the world. It is desirable for a Muslim to be buried within a day of dying rather than be embalmed.

It is desirable for a Muslim to go straight into the ground rather than be casketed, so that the ground can have him. But Muhammad Ali wanted to be laid out in Yankee Stadium. He wanted an open casket, so the world could see he was still so pretty! He had dreams about them -- the crowds. So he sought compromise. According to Shakir and Gianotti, embalming is not strictly forbidden; an embalming solution containing alcohol or formaldehyde is.

Not only are those elements poison, but they are the manifestation of a desire to attain immortality of the body rather than the soul. The body should rot, at the bottom of a hole in the ground, while the soul goes on to paradise. Gardner invested in a case of "green" embalming fluid that contained no substance offensive to God. For the next eight years, he wore a dedicated pager as dutifully as he wore his jackets, his ties and his alligator shoes It is the most extraordinary circumstance of Gardner's earthly existence, but the job he has to do is anything but extraordinary; he has done it thousands of times.

He embalmed his mother; he embalmed his father; now his touch falls upon a man who has touched so many, and whose message went around the world. It is an honor and privilege for Jeff Gardner to have been chosen to serve Muhammad Ali.

Yet he has no choice but to start the way he always has, the way he was taught: He goes to work. As Ahmad Ewais washed Ali's body in accordance with Muslim funeral rites, the men helping him believed they were watching the Muhammad Ali of body washers. He wears what he usually wears, a polo shirt and khakis.

He is a tall man in his mids, with close-cropped hair and a salt-and-pepper beard, and it is impossible to meet him without looking at his hands. They are large and very clean. They are never balled in fists; he holds them as if he were holding a large bowl, and they shape themselves into imploring gestures when Ewais, as is his habit, turns his eyes toward heaven.

He is a devout man who has turned his simplest movements into prayers. His fingernails are the color of pearls. When Ewais gets to the funeral home, Jeff Gardner is waiting for him. Gardner has finished his work, but he wants to make sure Ewais has the linen wrappings he brought with him on the private jet from Louisville -- the linen Ali bought for himself years ago.

Ewais has brought linen of his own, some of it cut into long strips he uses for tying. He has brought two plastic pitchers, one of them red and the other purple.

The planning of Muhammad Ali's funeral

He has brought a bottle of liquid Dial soap. He has brought towels he bought at Costco. He has brought a mask and gloves and cotton, in case he needs them. He has brought sticks of incense. From Saudi Arabia he has brought water said to be from the spring that bubbled up under the son of Abraham, and a bagful of lotus leaves. He has brought several kinds of perfume. He has brought camphor, which he ground himself in a coffee mill. He has also brought a friend from his mosque in Tempe, who will assist him, along with Zaid Shakir and Timothy Gianotti when they arrive.

At approximately 10 o'clock, they do, and Gardner leads them into the room where Ali lies under a sheet. He watches for a while, until Ewais starts washing the body. Ahmad Ewais is a body washer. He has washed nearly 1, It is his vocation, and it has seeped into him, all the way to his fingertips. He believes it is a mercy, and therefore an obligation. He believes that for every body he washes, 40 of his sins are forgiven.

He believes that Allah commands the faithful to help the helpless, and he knows from experience that there is nothing in creation as helpless as a dead body, even when the body belongs to Muhammad Ali. Ewais lights a stick of incense. With soap and water, he washes Ali's hands and arms up to the elbow, as if Ali were alive, preparing for prayer.

Then he cleans Ali's privates, sliding his hands under a towel. At no time is Ali uncovered or exposed; the towel extends from his belly to his knees, and Ewais lifts it with his left hand and washes with his right, pouring water from the plastic pitchers. It is quiet in the room, Shakir and Gianotti helping turn the body when Ewais asks them to, and the quiet is sacramental. They are transfixed, watching Ewais -- how much care he takes, how unhurried are his movements and how certain his hands -- and Shakir thinks to himself that Muhammad Ali is being washed by the Muhammad Ali of body washers.

But Ewais is transfixed by Ali himself. It is not that the great champion is more than a man; it is that he is precisely a man, and so has wound up here, on the table with him. He covers him with three sheets, stretching from his shoulders to his knees, from his waist to his feet, and then from head to toe. But he also talks to him, and prays for him, thinking the thoughts instead of speaking the words. Ewais is working to bring Ali's soul back to God.

It takes him 45 minutes, maybe an hour, to finish, to reach the point where he is tying Ali's wrappings up with the long strips of linen. He is about to apply perfume to Ali's face when he calls Shakir and Gianotti over to look. Ali is wearing a linen turban; his face is all that shows, and Shakir and Gianotti are both struck by how regal he looks, like an African king.

But there is something else: All through the course of his life, people asked if they could touch his face, because it was so smooth and so unmarked and so shiny.

Soon after the death, you need to chat everything through with the funeral people. It's an important, though brief, relationship and if you don't like the company once you meet them, you can change. I did this once. I was terrified that it would be complicated — like changing schools mid-term because you fancy a different headmaster — but actually it was really easy. They moved the body without any fuss, handed over the paperwork, and no one shouted at me for changing my mind.

This is about times nicer than doing it in their office. You can drink your own tea. Sit in your own chair. PA The order of service This invariably becomes the emotional focus of the week.

It needs to be a collective effort and is probably the moment when family tensions emerge in that lovely dysfunctional way that only a close death can inspire. For my dad, we had a few jokes the front page said: For my mother-in-law, we had photographs. For my father-in-law, we kept it formal. For my hippie friend, it was a party on a page. Whatever you do, the congregation is going to be staring at it for the best part of an hour, so make it special. And whoever ends up delivering the eulogy needs more love and support than you can possibly imagine.

Comfort food and beer and wine and memories. Strangely, it can be a very good night — like a team bonding before facing a big match the next day. The flowers There's a traditional tyranny-by-flowers in operation at many funerals.

But this bit can be personal too … At my father's funeral, we decided not to bother with flowers as he always hated them along with chewing gum, perfume, music, Dr Scholl's sandals, garlic and Nicholas Parsons.

Just before it was too late, we remembered that the one bloom he had time for was the forget-me-not — and, fabulously, he died bang in the middle of the pitifully short forget-me-not season.

So we ordered a massive bunch of these tiny blue blossoms, which covered the whole of the coffin — and on top of this huge bed of flowers we put the teddy bear with which he always travelled. For my sister-in-law's funeral, we filled the church with jam jars, teacups, teapots and Kilner jars bursting with multicoloured wild flowers.