I had never gone to a funeral but based on movies I had seen, I knew what to expect. Everyone wears black, people wear big dark shades to cover their puffy eyes, there is a lot of crying and a lot of consoling, you always need to carry tissues, and they are never fun.
I woke up to the news that my Abuelito, my grandfather, had passed away and the funeral was the same day. I put on the only black dress I owned, grabbed a handful of tissues, and left to the church.
As to my expectations, everyone was wearing black, women were wearing big movie star sunglasses, and tissues were all over the place. People I didn't know would come up to me, hug me, and expressed regret for my loss. It was hard to control myself from crying when so many people around me were crying.
Not helping the situation, the priest called my dad and told him he was going to be late. A truck carrying thousands of beer bottles had turned over and all the beer spilled all over the highway causing the traffic to be stand still. It would take him at least another hour to get to the church and his way of transportation would be a motorcycle so he would be able to zigzag through the traffic.
When my dad heard this he cracked a smile. This was the first time I’d seen him smile all day. I asked him why he looked so happy about the priest being late, and he said: "Abuelito had something to do with that beer spillage," and he was right. My Abuelito was quite the party animal; he loved to tell cheesy jokes, and was always jolly. His funeral wasn't going to be much different than his personality.
Somehow once we found out the reason why the priest was going to be late, the vibe at the funeral completely changed. It wasn’t gloomy anymore, instead the guests began to celebrate his life the way my Abuelito would have wanted us to. The transition of emotions didn't feel weird; it felt natural. Everyone had a slight grin; all were joyful. Instead of remembering his last days in the hospital, we remembered all our funny times and silly situations with him.
I got up and told the story of when Abuelito built a pond full of fish in his backyard. He wanted to teach my siblings and I how to fish, but there was one problem, he didn't buy any fishing gear. When we met him outside he came out wearing jeans, big black rain boots, a tucked in polo shirt, and blue goggles that were way too small for his face. He asked us, “are you guys ready to catch some fish?” We had no idea what he was about to do until he jumped right into the pond. He stood in the middle of the pond and tried to catch the fast, agile fish swimming around him. His plan was to just grab one that swam by him. My brother, sister, and I couldn't stop laughing. We all knew his plan wasn't going to work out, but he kept at it for 30 minutes.Abuelito loved making people laugh and he would go pretty far just to make us crack a smile.
Later on my cousins got up and sang a song we wrote for him while he was in the hospital. It was a funny little song about him and I never thought I would ever sing a song at a funeral. All my pre notions of funerals changed.
While waiting for the priest to arrive to the funeral my dad pulled out bottles of wine for all the guests. It wasn't a sob fest anymore. We turned the sad funeral into a celebration of Abuelito’s life. Music played and people sang and laughed. We didn't remember the days he lost; instead we remembered all the amazing days he lived.
I’m very grateful that the priest was late; the energy inside the church turned 180 degrees from the start of the funeral to the end of it. The beer incident made all reminisce about why we were there in the first place. We were all gathered there together to celebrate my Abuelito’s life. I stopped thinking about what I lost, and instead thought about what I had. Knowing my Abuelito he would have wanted us to turn his funeral into one big party.
The funeral was a perfect reflection of my Abuelito and how he loved to live life to the fullest. He was quiet the character, and was always very festive. Going to his funeral completely changed my original thoughts on what funerals were supposed to be like. What I expected and what most people expect is that they are dark, gloomy, sad, and are not supposed to be fun. To my surprise it wasn't a rainy, cloudy day, instead it was sunny and actually some of the best weather we had in a while. It was silly for me to expect a certain type of weather but that’s what I had seen in every movie scene. I don’t remember that day for all the sad moments but instead the positive moments take over.
When looking back I don't think about how hard it was to hear my father say Abuelito didn't make it, I think about how my Grandpa’s energy was present throughout the whole day. Everything from the priest to the singing, were all things my grandpa would have done and would have wanted.
After the funeral, I was melancholy, I had lost a good friend but also, I was untroubled; I understood that a funeral should be a celebration of life, a day to remember the moments, a day to commemorate the best of a person. A funeral should not be a silent black and white movie, but a jubilant, bright and colorful one, just like how Abuelito’s funeral turned out to be.