The pigeon in the church saved the funeral services. We were tired of sitting, the pews were hard, the air was stifling, even the best-intentioned of us were visibly fighting off a case of the drowsies. My friend’s wife, Sarah, had died, and she would have hated her own funeral. Her youngest child, an honest boy of eleven years old, leaned over to his dad and said, “Mom’s probably laughing at us right now.” He was right. She had the kind of sunny personality that laughed at etiquette, and was likely mocking her family and friends struggling to remain attentive throughout the droning sermons at her funeral.
Why on earth do people who speak at a funeral feel the need to repeat the same consoling phrases and stories time after time? It’s as if they think the longer they talk, the more homage they’re paying to our loved one. My friend’s wife would have preferred a few hilarious stories about her, a great song or two, and a fabulous party with her coffin in the center of the room. Maybe she got so tired of what was happening that she sent that pigeon into the church.
In the middle of a diatribe of how “the passing of a loved one is more sad for those of us who remain on earth than it is for our loved ones,” a pigeon dislodged itself from a hiding place somewhere up in the church roof and dive-bombed the podium. The speaker squeaked and his notes scattered. The pigeon in the church was soon joined by a few more, who flew over our heads, close enough we could feel the breeze from their filthy wings. A pigeon dropped a little “bomb” of its own right on the shoulder of a young woman who was a distant relative of the dearly departed. She had chosen to wear the most revealing, slinkiest little dress I’d ever seen at a funeral, but now it had a white splotch oozing down the shoulder and onto the front.
No one was snoozing now, no one was crying now. There was chaos. Some children tried to catch the pigeons in the church. Fathers waved the birds off and some women tried in vain to maintain some kind of composure and dignity throughout it all. We were all reminded of how the woman in the casket would have loved the disruption, her full infectious laugh would have rung out loudly. The speaker was flustered, the pastor was embarrassed to have pigeons in the church, but most of us were grateful the proceedings were cut short and we could move on to enjoying each other’s company, consoling each other’s grief, and remembering how wonderful Sarah was.