There aren't too many things in life that have scarred me. My grandfather's spittoon bucket would be one of those things. Was more that fact he was allowed to use it in the house that freaked me out the most? Another was a mortuary. When we lived in Illinois there was a parking lot adjacent to our backyard which housed parking for a mortuary. I met a girl who lived there one time and she asked if I wanted to go down the elevator in the mortuary and see where they kept the dead bodies. Definitely on my top ten of freakishly scary things in life. But one of the scariest things was one I should have never had to endure if adults in my life would have used common sense. That would be the funeral of my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. McNeil.
Mrs. McNeil was one of those quirky teachers that was a little on the round side with a few more than her share of wrinkles. She gave out Jolly Rancher candy as a reward to students who answered questions correctly in science and got 100% on their spelling tests. Great for the students and even better for the family dentist. I'm not sure the story behind the life of Mrs. McNeil. We moved to Arizona when I started fourth grade and she died before I ever really got to hear much about her life. I think the funeral took place by the time I was in 6th grade.
The funeral was held at St. Theresa and the entire school was in attendance. Now, a funeral per se is not the world's worst event for children to attend. Even having the entire school attend including the kindergarten class was not really a problem in my book. My questioning of good judgment began when they decided to have an open casket service...with giddy students who don't know how to be reverent or polite in the presence of a dead body. Mrs. McNeil didn't look real great when she was alive let alone filled with formaldehyde and gaudy makeup. The hair was a whole other story.
When students lined up to pay their respects and walk past the casket I didn't know whether to be terrified that Mrs. McNeil might jump up out of the casket and grab me by the neck or sickened that many of the boys in line in front of me had all spontaneously developed a case of gigglebugitis. Surely God was going to smite them and send them straight to hell for not only laughing in church but God forbid, laughing when old Mrs. McNeil lay there looking like she'd just visited Hell.
Don't get me wrong-there is a time and a place for children to attend funeral services. But one must agree that parents should be in tow with said children? And certainly a celebration of life with punch and cookies along with lovely pictures of the deceased in the school gymnasium would perhaps be a better way to show honor. I will survive having gone through the experience. I may even be a little more sensitive now to taking my own children to funerals because of the whole ordeal. And having an extra scar or two in my life has made me the person I am today...even if it meant I had to have a grandfather that had a spittoon bucket and a neighbor girl that lived at the mortuary.