(Originally posted June 9, 2011)
Most people would have taken this as a bad omen. Looking back now, it was an imposing sign, becoming engaged in a funeral home. Did I happen to mention that this momentous life event also occurred next to the deceased? No? Well, as usual, elaboration here will be most helpful in connecting what SURELY must be quite a few unconnected dots in your head just now.
Back in the day–the day being post college graduation–illusions of what all those college graduates should be doing came down to one thing: Pairing off and getting married. I held that illusion myself…for a while…until I came to my senses. Thank the good Lord above that I did just that, lest more than just myself be tossed into a life of misery!
Becoming engaged. For me, the entire process was akin to ice skating up the wrong side of a freeway…backwards…blindfolded…in July.
Thoughts of planning a wedding and diving head first into all the trappings thereof, was indeed a heady experience. Registering for china and crystal (Waterford), selecting the perfect silver pattern (was Francis I too much to ask?), venues for the Rehearsal dinner, floral options. Rest assured it wouldn’t take long for my brain to wrap itself around the reality of “the day AFTER the wedding.” Ugh. Ick. From that day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness… Yes, it would ONLY be sickness if THAT event would have taken place. Me…married…to her.
Now back to that “handwriting on the wall” during the engagement. At a funeral home. Beside a dead body. I have to say that ‘dead body’ sounds a bit crass, as the departed was the wonderful father of my dear friend Mary Gist. Her father, Hogely Gist had been in ill health for quite some time and it was at the funeral home visitation where I became betrothed.
At the time when all this ill-fated betrothing was on the horizon, I was living in Birmingham, Alabama. I had purchased “THE ring,” and plans were laid for popping the pensive question. Mary’s Dad was in the hospital at The University of Alabama, Birmingham. Mary and her mom, Augazelle (what a precious lady!!) were staying in Birmingham near where her Dad was hospitalized. I met them for dinner one evening and since they both knew “her” I showed them the ring, where all the expected “Ooohing” and “Aaahing” ensued.
Fast forward a few weeks, location: Florence, Alabama. Mary’s Dad had passed away and the funeral home visitation was coincidentally scheduled a few days prior to the weekend when the question of betrothal was to be popped. As ‘she’ and I were waiting in line to pay our condolences, I had no idea what was coming next…
Before ‘she’ and I could convey our sadness to Mary and her Mom, Mary’s mom blurted out to ‘her,’ “Well let me see your ring!!” Augazelle reached for ‘her’ left hand expecting to see the engagement ring she saw in Birmingham a few weeks back perched on ‘her’ finger. In the background, I am giving the pantomiming performance of the century! Motioning, NO! NO RING YET! Shaking my head, silently, feverishly trying to change the subject. I get confusing glances from ‘her’, Mary’s mom, Mary. Then, I gave up…and there, in the funeral home, next to Mary’s departed father, I whispered the words to ‘her,’ “Wanna get married??”
Yes, I know… I should have…we ALL should have stopped right there and cut our losses. Thankfully, it didn’t take too many more days post funeral home engagement for us to realize that very thing. This college romance wasn’t going any further. Looking back, it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly!
Epilogue: Yes, there is an Epilogue, but hey…I gotta keep a bit of mystery about me, no?