The news of yet another untimely death makes me wonder if there is such a thing as “timely death?” I mean with the technology helping man to live beyond his useless years and, on the other hand, accidents and disasters continuing to interrupt nature, this is one aspect of “time” one can't keep track of. I imagine my own “untimely death” which would be sure to happen somewhere along the next five decades. So, respectful of myself for having made it this far, I decide to attend my own funeral.
I have a hard time finding anything suitable to wear. My one and only black pantyhose has a run and when I pull it up, it barely makes it as far as my hips.
I couldn't possibly have gained weight, I'm on Atkins!
Assured that nylon, too, could shrink, I decide to wear the thing but to remember and take smaller steps.
My husband's single solid black tie, from London's Cecil Gee – and dating back to the seventies – forms a tiny knot under his Adam's apple making him look like an item from my old family album. I tell the kids they don't have to attend because a funeral isn't suitable for young people. Besides, I don't think I could bear to see them cry.
The place looks more like a school; there's a flag above the podium. It could also be the reception hall of a funeral home, but with no other signs and so many people around, I can't tell.
I'm pleased to see how many have come. Family, friends, people I had not seen for a long time – including those who I had thought hated me – and quite a few strangers. I am overjoyed to see how they all look sad. There's this woman who never gave me her recipe for dolmeh and swore her nose was naturally small. She sobs as if I'm her long lost sister – though she often forgot to invite me to her children's weddings.
The mounds of flowers look so familiar, I wonder if they are done by the same person who does all the major Iranian events in our town. She has a knack for making every event look like the next. In fact, I notice how my funeral's white flowers could easily be used for the next wedding.
In the background, a man — a tape? — recites the latest rhymed version of a translated Koran. It doesn't sound funerally correct. I think perhaps the choice is my husband's final attempt to show me he does appreciate poetry. I am touched, though I still don't care for the translation. I mean, Koran is all foreign to me anyway, but at least the Arabic version stirs some childhood memories. Why ruin it with Persian lyrics which make it neither here nor there.
A woman, who had flirted with my husband on more than one occasion, puts her arms around him and cries, “I am so sorry!”
Oh I bet she is.
The crowd is asked to be seated. My husband and I for once take the center front seats. A man in a black suit, whom I don't know, asks for a moment of silence. Now, with death to my advantage, I am able to hear people's thoughts, so for me the noise rises even higher, making it hard to concentrate and pay my respects.
The man who's timing us is wondering if his watch is in need of a repair while the woman standing next to him worries that crying will make her mascara run. Quite a few people are unanimously thanking God for the fact that it is my funeral and not theirs. My husband, whose back at this point has had enough of the hard metal chair, sadly wonders if he should have bought a new tie for the occasion.
After that the speakers come on board. This is my favorite part, the part I have actually come for, when I can sit back and enjoy an abundance of complements. My best friend, Pari, would have been my first choice, but she is crying so hard, she can't utter a word and would do a lousy job of it. Someone needs to distract her, take her shopping, or at least offer her a box of tissue before she drowns in her ocean of tears. They have selected one of my husband's friends – a man who barely knew me – to give the eulogy. Knowing him to be a great speaker, I forgive them.
He begins by words of comfort from the entire Iranian community to my husband and family and proceeds to speak of my grandeur. He states the fact that the Iranian/American community — indeed Iranians around the world — would not have achieved as much if it weren't for my ten articles in publications, which may be unknown for now, but soon will be sure to capture the world's attention. He states this with such conviction I begin to wonder if I should have been paid for those. He even goes as far as declaring the damnation of the judges of the Pulitzer Prize for their failure to grant me what had been my birth right.
Good choice of speaker. I doubt Pari would have remembered the Pulitzer bit.
The next speaker is my sister, who sobs amid recollections of our childhood memories. I appreciate the fact that she has traveled so far to be here, knowing that — like many others — she could have sent mountains of flowers at a fraction of the cost. I just wish she would stop mentioning our ages and that she had something new to say, something about the “me” who has just died and not the insignificant kid of long ago.
After the first twenty-five minutes, my novelty has worn off. We have more than established the fact that humanity has just received its biggest blow, that the world would never be the same without me. We imagine how, for the rest of our times, we shall wake up every morning, and think of nothing but the gap I have left behind. Enough already, where's the food?
The buffet looks mouth-watering. Not just halva — though there is a lot of that in all shades of brown made by different friends — but an array of delicacies. This indeed is the pride of Persia, considering that Salad Olivier and Ratatoille have also applied for Iranian citizenship. I don't know about others, but I have yet to see a better spread at a funeral.
People are now happier; a few even laugh as they exchange humor. As someone who knew how much the deceased worshipped food, humor, and the combination there of, this is the best tribute they could have paid her.
I take a large plate and the napkin rolled around a couple of eating utensils.
May she rest in peace, I'm starved.
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a freelance writer, poet and artist. She lives in San Diego, California.
Comedy & Satire in San Jose on February 27 >>> Details