My First Funeral

I had a very gentle introduction into the world of funerals. The first funeral I ever went to was in 1979. I was working at the Duplex Nursing Home in Boston and a man there by the name of Arthur Brown became ill, was taken to the hospital and died, all in short order. He was 96 and had lived a long, healthy life. His time had come and he went peacefully. I asked around to see if anyone from the home wanted to go to the funeral and one man did: Arthur Wallace.

On the appointed day I borrow a car and we set off for the cemetery where the graveside service is supposed to be. I get lost on the way and the trip takes longer than expected. Arthur spends the entire trip offering a running commentary on billboards, skirt lengths and problems with his hearing aid that he is constantly trying to repair by poking it with any type of pointed object – usually a pen. And all the while he chews on a cigar, which appears to be wet at both ends.

We finally get to the cemetery. I park the car and, holding Arthur’s arm, walk with him across the wet leaves that cover the ground. There are three people already there: two elderly women, distant relatives of Mr. Brown’s, and the minister, who, after we all introduce ourselves, delivers his brief eulogy. He then asks if anyone else would like to say anything in remembrance. One of us does: Arthur Wallace. He steps forward, holding his cigar stub at his side, and says:

“Arthur Brown was a good man. He had the room next to mine. Funny thing though, he didn’t like bananas. When his tray came up for lunch, if there was a banana on it, he’d give it to me. Now, I like a banana, I like a banana okay. A banana is my number two fruit. But my number one fruit is a big, mild pear.”

That was the end of the first funeral I ever went to.

– David Greenberger

(aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, ??????)