My aunt died suddenly a few months ago. Neither she nor my uncle was particularly religious, but their lives were an unusual adventure so my uncle wanted a remembrance that would be true to how she lived â€“ the fun-loving, adventurous, party-girl she was. My aunt and uncle marched to the tune of a very different drummer. At 35, they rented out their house, sailed their boat out of San Francisco Bay to sail around the world. They fell in love with a tranquil bay in Baja, Mexico and stayed there â€“ living on the boat and making good friends â€“ for the next 20+ years. After a brief return to San Francisco, they settled near Yosemite and made lots of friends on shore. When my aunt died, my uncle had her cremated and planned a celebration of life about a month later. The event started with a short ceremony and buffet at their country club where many of their friends came to pay their respects to my uncle and share stories of the fun times they all had together. Then, the family and many of the old friends went back to their house to drink a few beers, tell the old stories, and share photos of happy times. Finally, we went drinking and dancing at one of my auntâ€™s favorite places. We closed the bar at the famous Iron Door Saloon drinking toasts to her and basking in her joie de vivre one more time. Sometime this year, heâ€™ll return to Mexico and spread her ashes in the waters of their favorite bay. Funerals are really for the living, not the dead. Since attending this extraordinary event, I havenâ€™t been quite the same. Somehow my auntâ€™s spirit was there - hostess of the party â€“ reminding us workaholics how precious life is and how great it feels to dance and be happy.
In my early twenties, I had a boyfriend who was studying mortuary science and became a local funeral director. I've often thought I'd get a "Chuckles" fit if I inadvertently went to a funeral where he presided.One of the most remembered episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was "Chuckles Bites the Dust" (October 25, 1975), which involved the death of Chuckles. In that episode, Chuckles is hired as the grand marshal for a circus parade (after news anchor Ted Baxter is told to decline). At the parade, he dressed as a popular character, Peter Peanut. Tragedy struck when "..a rogue elephant tried to shell him.." and he died from his injuries. News of Chuckles's ironic death brings laughter to the newsroom staff, except for Mary. However, at the funeral service everyone is overcome with grief, and Mary cannot help but laugh during the service. However, when the minister tells the embarrassed Mary that the laughter was actually keeping with Chuckles' wishes, she suddenly breaks into inconsolable sobbing to her greater humiliation. This episode was ranked #1 on TV Guide's The Greatest Episodes of All Time.
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