This is your quintessential Alabamian funeral. If you’ve never been to an Alabama funeral, it is an occasion filled with nuance. There are cultural folkways and conventions to be adhered to.
We will stand in single-file lines. We will wait to hug surviving family members and weep.
“Thanks for coming,” the family of the decedent will say.
“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” we will all reply, almost verbatim. Because this is what you do.
Then we will all go eat until we develop type II diabetes.
I walk across the parking lot with my wife. I’m wearing a blazer. My wife wears pearls. There is a light breeze that tastes faintly of salt because this is Mobile.
And everyone is waiting around. Talking, but not laughing. Mingling, but not smiling. Telling story after story.
Then I see the widow.
Her name is Michelle. Black dress. Hanky in hand. Surprisingly, she’s still standing upright. I don’t know how. She is engaged in the hugging of a million necks.
Michelle is my friend. She’s a writer
and journalist. She represents a time when printed newspapers actually existed. When newsrooms still had the occasional IBM Selectric typewriter hanging around.
A time before modern news journalists were caught in a firestorm of hatred borne from a vicious climate, ultimately finding themselves forced to degrade their craft by writing, for example, listicles. (“22 Celebrities Who Look Nothing Alike!”)
She worked for the Mobile Press-Register during its heyday. She was old school all the way. She predates Buzzfeed and TikTok. She did interviews with a legal pad. She wrote rough drafts in pencil. She had an expense account. Long live the golden age of journalism.
But she is too young to be a widow.
And yet here she stands. I can see her hugging people. I can hear their condolences. I can see people weeping. And I feel sick to my stomach seeing my…