My mother’s oldest brother, Uncle John Prentiss, died in 1976, after a long illness. He was a good, hardworking man and I will always remember him with fondness,
After his death his body was taken to Fred Parker’s Funeral Home and all relatives and friends were notified so we could gather and pay our last respects. There were two other funerals being handled simultaneously at Parker’s, so there was a tremendous crowd there the night we gathered to mourn Uncle John.
My family is a big family. It is a sad commentary on my nature but I was looking forward to seeing various relatives at the funeral parlor. We hardly ever got together except for funerals, weddings and an occasional family reunion. It was certainly no fault of mine that Uncle John had paid a dear price for what was doing to be a rich, social experience for me. At any rate, I felt he would understand and not begrudge me any pleasure I might have as a result of this family gathering.
The first mistake I made that night was when I sat down by his brother, Uncle Bill Prentiss. Uncle Bill and I lived in the same town but we rarely got an opportunity to visit. We started our conversation with the usual polite, family-type remarks. These led to observations about various things and from there we went on to discussions of family happenings of years gone by—some of them pretty funny—to us, anyhow.
For all practical purposes we forgot that we were in a funeral parlor to mourn, comfort and console. We had gotten into family history and we were really enjoying it. I realized that our enjoyment had passed the bounds of decorum and good taste when I saw the strange looks we were getting from the friends and relatives of the other two people who had the bad luck to be the guests of honor, along with Uncle John, at the funeral parlor.
There we were—Uncle Bill and me—an island unto ourselves, a little raucous knot of noise, having a great time! Our relatives, having known us for a good many years could overlook us—probably didn’t expect anything better, but the other people down there that night obviously expected a little more from us. To make matters even worse, Uncle Bill and I were having such a good time that we could not muster up enough strength of character to pull ourselves together and behave with a little dignity.
Looking back on that night, I feel kind of good about that farewell to Uncle John. I hope when I die that my friends and relatives will gather and mourn a little bit, and then go on to remember the many good, funny and special things that we shared and enjoyed.