This song must have meant something
at one time. Now, a bad recording of it is being piped over an inferior sound system
into the stifling closeness of a funeral parlor
. My uncle
lies stretched out in his best suit, looking decidedly dead
, although I have just lied to my aunt
, assuring her that he looks like he's "sleeping
". Everyone sits quietly, looking at their hands; some weep quietly, some wonder
how much longer this horrible song can go on.
is singing the song too slowly; as he hits the word "cherish
strings swell up to meet the sentiment. "Cherish the Old Rugged Cross"; few think of the absurdity
that inheres in "cherishing" a torture device
. Or in pumping a dead body full of preservatives
and displaying it in a "parlor".
A priest gives a stiff eulogy
("...and let eternal light shine upon them..."), another pointless hymn
is rendered by the same recorded tenor ("Nearer My God to Thee
"), and as we file past the body to escape into a late spring rain, none of us seems too eager to shuffle off this mortal coil
and join my uncle and Christ
in glory. The remains of this afternoon, damp and too cold for early May
, are enough for the living
. We're willing to leave the "Old Rugged Cross" for the dead.