Ten years ago I went to a memorial service in the U.S. for the first time. After a somber remark, the rest of the talks all included tidbits about the dead. The audience chuckled and even laughed out loud.
That was more than a shock, for in my culture, this would be a big offence! We enter a memorial service with lowered heads and voices; we sob, cry, holler, and some close families even faint. This is the last respect we pay, the last thing we do in the dead’s presence. Therefore, it feels right to make a procession, modest or grand, have the mourners holler behind the funeral wagon, through alleys and streets, and let the grief be felt by strangers.
In the dimly lit chapel, I listened to the somber remark, chuckles and laughter. The stained glass windows seemed resiliently bright. In the end, we stood up and sang our alma mater. I heard for the first time, he was known to sing it more loudly than others at hockey games. I sang more loudly yesterday.
In that moment, I realized how much I have changed. I would want a memorial like this, I thought, I’m sure someone would mention the graham crackers and brie I brought to a Christmas party, and my forever struggle with using “he” and “she” correctly in English…
Yes, I would like that more than the hollers indeed.
To be an immigrant is about making choices, suffering through death and birth, realizing what’s lost and what’s found, all the while feeling grateful that we can choose.