Thursday, November 21, 2013

The funeral selfie. (Too little sensitivity, TMI.)

On any given day, there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of reasons to ask the grumpy old geezer question, “What in the world is the world coming to?”

The latest one I came across was the young-folk trend of posting selfies taken at funerals because, like, if I have to go to this boring funeral for, like, some old person who’s, like, related to me and, like, I may even like, but, you know, it’s still a funeral, and there’s, like, this dead person, and, ewww, it’s nasty, well, at least I want the kids as school to, like, know where I am and why I’m not, like, at school.

The good news is that at least they’re attending those funerals.

I’ve run into a number of middle-aged folks over the years who seem never to have attended a wake or funeral until one of their parents died.

This has always amazed me.

Didn’t they have any grandparents? Didn’t they have an occasional neighbor who died? Were there no schoolmates who lost a parent?

I realize that not everyone grows up urban, ethnic, Catholic, where attending wakes and funerals are a way of life.

Still, how do you make it into adulthood without having known at least a couple of people who died?

Talk about boy in the bubble…

So at least these little selfie-takers are at Grandpa’s wake and Aunt Gert’s funeral.

And they’re probably a bit weirded out about it, especially if there’s (ewww, nasty) an open casket on the scene.

And it’s probably not as if it were someone supremely close to them – a parent or a sib – who’s died, so, while they’re somewhat sad, they’re not exactly overcome with grief.

And they want to come off as cool.

And they’re probably used to that iPhone being a seamless extension of their arm. And to oversharing.

And they’re obviously a lot better at taking a selfie than I’ll ever be.

Still, does it not occur to them that this behavior is somewhat inappropriate? (And does it not occur to their parents to tell them that a funeral is a smartphones-off occasion? Guess not, given that even the grownups are tweeting out at funerals…)

Maybe I should be more generous, and just look at this as a cri de coeur from the generation that only knows how to express emotion by using an emoticon.

Not that there’s anything new about taking pictures at funerals.

When my Uncle Jack died thirty years ago, some couple attending his wake asked if they could take a picture of Jack in his casket.

They were constituents – Jack was a state representative in Illinois – and, apparently, they wanted to show some fellow citizens who couldn’t be there.

But the couple didn’t make funny faces or gestures while taking the picture. They didn’t include themselves in the shot. And, fortunately, there was no online to post the Kodak moment to, with or without a vapid comment.

The selfies at funerals thang reminds me of an incident that occurred at my mother’s funeral.

We had just left the funeral parlor and were heading to the church, when a car containing a bunch of late teens pulled up next to the lead mourner car, the limo that my siblings and I were in.

A couple of boys hung out the windows and started making stupid, mocking faces and gestures towards us.

We, of course, thought they were colossal assholes, but we were also rather shocked that they were doing something so mean and imbecilic when they didn’t know the circumstances of this particular funeral.

Sure, we were upset. Our mother had just died. But she was elderly, and we were all grown, and it’s the natural order of things to bury your parents. So we were sad, but we weren’t overcome with grief.

All we could think of was, what if these cretins were mugging it up at someone who’d just lost a child? If the limo contained a grief-stricken pregnant widow whose husband had just dropped dead?

At least the young funeral selfiers aren’t mocking complete strangers.

Still, I do hope that the kids – and the ones on Selfies at Funerals on Tumblr do look pretty young  - grow up and, by the time they’re seventeen or eighteen, find it mortifying that they had ever done anything as inappropriate as posting a selfie while at their grandmother’s funeral.

And may I remind them:

Never laugh when a hearse goes by
For you might be the next to die.
They wrap you up, in a clean white sheet.
And bury you under, six feet deep.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.
The ants play pinochle on your snout.
And one little ant, who’s not to shy,
Crawls in your ear, and out your eye.

So, kids, LOL all you want, but it happens to the best of them.

And one thing you won’t be able to do at your own funeral is take and post a selfie. Although come to think of it, there’ll probably be an app for that by then. Maybe even cams that can post the “experience” of the body being cremated, or broadcast the process of mouldering in the grave.

I’m turning into such a cranky old git.

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