Ham biscuits and sorrow
I am making funeral food tomorrow for a grieving family I don’t know. I’ve never met the widow for whom this funeral reception will be a gauzy blur of numbness. I don’t know if there are children and the family just recently moved here. But at St. Paul’s, no matter whether you’ve attended here once or a thousand times it’s of no consequence. Always go to the funeral and always put on your best for those left behind.
I was thinking as I was standing in line at the grocery store with a cart full of assorted cheeses, shaved ham, grapes, crackers, biscuits and cookie dough that I’ll probably spend about $50 just on my part of the reception. Somebody else is putting in the big bucks for boiled shrimp, which we cannot seem to have a reception without. It just seems wrong. And then it hit me that someday — maybe soon, maybe not — women who perhaps didn’t know me well will do the same for me. It’s just what you do.
In the South, especially at an Episcopal funeral reception, there are just some things that have to be. Otherwise, there’s no order in the universe. There must be pimento cheese tea sandwiches as well as chicken salad in phyllo cups. Deviled eggs always make an appearance. In fact, the woman making them lamented on social media today that she couldn’t get the boiled eggs to come cleanly out of the shells. That’s what a deviled egg platter is for — when those eggs filled with yolky mayonnaise goodness settle into their little porcelain nests no one will be the wiser.
In an odd way I enjoy funeral receptions. It’s a very quiet, somewhat anonymous way to show unconditional love and respect for people in a hurting place whether you know them or not. It’s a way to be part of community. And one way or another I believe we’re all called to do that.