I am not a bad person, I just have a warped sense of humour.
If you’re anything like me you always laugh when disaster strikes, and tragedy turns into hilarity. Burying my parents was hilarious. I was about nineteen when Dad passed away, lost my Mum at twenty one.
I had no money when Dad died. So the casket was the cheapest available, basically a slightly thicker version of cheap plywood. The cemetery was full in my town and the only available plot was an hour away in the next one. Hiring a hearse was out of the question.
What to do, what do to .. Someone suggested a small 3-seater pick-up truck, open at the back, you know the kind. “Hmm..“ thinks me, Dad will turn in his grave if we toss him in the back like a sack of potatoes.
Eventually I realised there was no other choice – a pick-up truck it must be. So there we are, trucking down the highway, me, Mum and the driver. And Dad was in the back. I was in a trance. It was surreal carting someone around the countryside – in a coffin. Finally we get to the cemetery. The priest was there and one family friend. I don’t have photos obviously. Funerals are not the best time for family snaps.
Now picture this: everything is deadly quiet except the priest saying priestly words. He gets to the end of the service and it’s time for Mum to do something. So she bends down, grabs a fistful of earth to throw on the coffin as it lowers into the grave. And falls in. She lands on the coffin and disappears.
Trance mode is replaced by amazement. There’s me and the friend madly grabbing at her hands. The expression on the priest’s face was indescribable. Anyway, we drag her out, dust her off – and what do I say?
“Mum, aren’t you in a bit of a hurry?”
It just sorta slipped out.
That was it. I cracked up. I couldn’t stop laughing. You know – the kind of laughter when tears pour down your cheeks and you want to pee in your pants. The priest was throwing dagger glances like a disapproving school teacher. All that was missing was a bolt of lightning to strike me down.
Eighteen months later Mum died. And I was still broke. Ok, now we know the recipe – cheap coffin and a pick-up truck to the next town. This time it was another truck, another friend who drove and a gold-digging ex who magically appeared to “help” in the hope of an inheritance hand-out. He admitted as much later.
Nobody spoke on the drive down. The friend was at the wheel and I was squished in the middle next to Horrible Ex. And Mum was in the back.
We’re about half-way through the journey when the driver stares in his rear view mirror and slams on the brakes. We look at each other – what happened?
“The coffin is open”
The following conversation ensues between the friend and Horrible Ex.
“Someone has to bash her back in, she’s sticking out”
“I’m not going”
“You have to, you’re the ex, I’m just the driver”
“I’m scared of dead bodies”
“Joanna can’t go, she’s the bereaved”
“I am NOT going, I will throw up”
Silence. Door opens and slams shut. Horrible Ex goes the back of the truck. Bang bang bang – problem solved. Nobody speaks and off we go.
Five minutes later the driver slams on the brakes – again. We look at each other. It’s a case of ‘who can last the longest till the other one moves’. Horrible Ex gets out. Bang bang bang. Horrible Ex comes back, he looks a bit green. He shuts the door and off we go. The driver’s cabin, dare I say it? is silent as the grave.
We were about 10 minutes away from our destination. The driver lets out a huge sigh and slams on the brakes – again. Ok, this is not funny. Or is it? Horrible Ex knows by now that he will lose the argument. Off he goes, bashes the lid on this abominably flimsy coffin and promptly throws up in the road.
And that’s where I come in. Till now I hadn’t said a word. I was observing, as one does, when situations like these arise. Then I had a weird brain zap which goes something like this:
The coffin lid opens, my mother sits up with arms outstretched, the coffin is on little wheels, it zooms out of the back of the truck onto the highway – and disappears into the horizon. Poof!
My nostrils flared and I began to laugh. I laughed so much my belly ached, my jaws hurt and I nearly peed in my pants – again. Tears were still streaming down my face when we got to the cemetery. I had to be helped out of the car. People thought it was grief and tried to comfort me. I had to stand with bowed head the whole way through. The more they comforted, the more I laughed. I was mentally ticking off my parents for not being able to get buried right.
Am I an irreverent creature? Definitely. Does humour get you through all kind of shitty situations? Of course. Does shit happen? All the time. I still smile about it, and them .. with affection.