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CATTLE TODAY

IT'S THE PITTS -- THE MARRIED AND THE BURIED

Lately it seems like my entire social calendar consists of weddings and funerals. The only time I see my relatives these days is at funerals and I'd say I'd like to see them more often but that might sound like I'm hoping they'd die.

Recently in a 24 hour period I attended both a wedding and a funeral and I was struck by the many similarities between the newlyweds and the newly dead. In both cases the pews were filled with folks who hadn't been to church in a long time. There were readings from scripture, the families sat up front, a small program was passed out and there was beautiful music, although the song selections were different. At one the organist played Here Comes the Bride and at the other we sang Onward Christian Soldiers. Family members were grieving at both the funeral AND the wedding.

Although I wore the same threadbare clothes to both occasions the married and the buried all wore fancy duds and had their hair done. After both the wedding and the funeral the betrothed and the dearly departed were going somewhere, either to heaven or to a resort south of Cancun. One would get there in a hearse, the others on a cruise ship. Although an uncertain future awaited both the newlywed and newly dead one thing was for sure: in both cases the man's circulation was going to be cut off.

In the wedding the leading players were ushered down the aisle by bridesmaids and groomsmen, while at the funeral pall bearers performed the same function. At the wedding the preacher spoke comforting words and asked if anyone objected to the marriage. The priest at the funeral was also consoling but he did not ask if there were any objections. A lot of good it would have done! In both cases it was for better or for worse. At both ceremonies babies cried and flowers bloomed, although no bouquet was thrown at the funeral. Who wants to catch the bouquet at a funeral and be next?

There was the expected traditional pageantry at the marriage and the funeral, although I noticed that traditions are changing in the church. During the funeral we laughed a little and when man and wife were introduced for the first time we clapped. But some things never change... tears by the bucket were shed in both cases.

After the funeral and the wedding we went to a reception, visited, and ate. Having much experience in these matters lately I'd say that the food is always better after a wedding. At the reception we listened to speeches about what a good guy the deceased and the groom HAD BEEN. Good friends knew they'd seen the last of their good buddy and paid their last respects to both the married and the buried. Family members knew they'd hardly see the bride, groom and the departed ever again. After both ritualistic ceremonies the deceased and the betrothed were pictured next to each other on the same page in our newspaper. For every ending there is a new beginning.

This is not to suggest that there are not important differences between weddings and funerals. At a funeral there is no ring bearer, flower girl or bachelor party. It usually takes months of planning for a wedding, unless it's of the shotgun variety, and in that case both a wedding and a funeral can be pulled off in three days. Usually a Doctor of Divinity presides over a funeral whereas a baby doctor might be waiting in the wings at a wedding. For a funeral there are no invitations, no official photos, and unlike a marriage, it cannot be postponed. Also unlike a marriage, you only get one funeral. For the families I think funerals must be a lot cheaper than weddings but for the guests it's about the same. For one it's a set of steak knives and for the other it's a contribution to the Cancer Society or the American Heart Association.

The lavish wedding and the austere funeral made me realize once again that we don't always get what we deserve in this life. Some of us marry better than others while some lucky stiffs live to be ninety. But in the end, as they say, we are all cremated equal.

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