This past week I had the difficult task of attending a funeral, which brought together a conglomerate of people.
There were the family, ex-family, married-in family, and a few spare part-people who were there out of the goodness of their hearts or to service the family with food and comfort, and those of us that seemed to know a few of each of these groups of people.
A week before the funeral a family member, of the married-in sort called me, very upset that at the hateful comments she’d been subjected to by an older family member regarding whether she was “A Mexican.” She’s actually of Cherokee descent, but you know with all that black hair and dark eyes — who can tell right? (Sarcasm intended.)
Regardless of her descent — who asked for approval?
Kindness while standing around in a bereavement situation would be fairly expected, I would think. But families, being the imperfect structures that they may be, can bring together all the “lovely bunches of coconuts,” as the saying goes.
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“She’s just set in her ways…try to avoid her…” were some of the things I said over the phone, to my later regret and dismay. Although my first comments were to console my upset family member, why on earth did I even try to sugar-coat a very clear episode of prejudice?
Because the offender was old.
A week later I stood in the church for the funeral service with the same family member who held her small baby. As we waited for the service to begin, I decided to make small talk with two ladies sitting there in the pews. Not knowing who they were, I introduced myself.
“I don’t know why that baby has brown eyes — we have always had blue eyes in our family,” came the terse-lipped reply to my introduction.
Oh, no. I had inadvertently struck up a conversation with the wrong person. The one we were…