Two weeks ago, I dropped the girls off at a local church for a singing lesson with their teacher, who had just served as cantor for a funeral. As we approached the building, people spilled from the doorways. With the exception of a few pairs of tan slacks and navy skirts, everyone was dressed in black: black cotton, black lace, black cashmere. You name it, the clothing was very dark. And there I stood, in the middle of the crowd, in my beloved rainbow fleece.
A few people glanced my way, possibly because I was moving against the crowd, maybe because of the rainbow fleece. I can't be sure, but at that moment, when my eyes darted from person to person and landed on nothing but drab clothing and long faces, I decided that I would never again wear black to a funeral.
I consider myself very lucky. I can probably count the number of funerals I've been to in my life on my hands. I've attended a few while I was in high school and still under my mother's thumb (black skirt, sensible flats). I also remember going to my grandfather's funeral while in graduate school. Even though I was technically an adult, mom still had the ability to throw scorn my way if I didn't dress properly (hence, the dark attire and sensible flats, again). The most recent funeral I attended was a few years ago, long after I'd left my mom's house. I remember clearly that I wore a light brown floral shirt and cream sweater along with brown capris. A summertime funeral is no place for anything heavier, really. Plus, I think it was about that time in my life, as I held my littlest in my arms and looked around at the tears streaming from people's eyes, that I decided funerals need to be celebrations instead of sadness.
Sure, I understand everyone's need to grieve. And make no mistake, I'm not saying you shouldn't express your sadness. What I am saying is that instead of focusing on the fact that the loved one is gone, let's revel in the fact that we knew that person at all. Let's focus on the person and how she made everyone feel loved. How he helped at every T-ball game whether his kids were playing or not. How much she loved her family and how he made friends everywhere he went. At funerals, we are gathering with an entire community of people who cared for the beloved. Shouldn't we be laughing at memories and clapping our hands over moments we shared together? Part of that celebration can start with clothing choices.
Sadly, I have a funeral to attend tomorrow, for a kindergarten teacher two of my children used to have. I think she'd approve of a ban on black at her funeral (her mom was dressed in bright purple at the viewing). While I might not actually show up in my rainbow fleece, I'm certainly not going to be found in black either.