How Could I Get My Wife's Funeral So Wrong?Commentary • Opinion • death • marriage • ISSUE 41•10 • Mar 9, 2005 By Norman Breen Norman Breen Oh God, I never meant for it to turn out this way. All I wanted to do was give my beloved wife of 26 years a sincere and meaningful goodbye. She was the love of my life—a standard funeral ceremony just wouldn't do. But somehow, I managed to really screw it up. Geez, how could I get my wife's funeral so wrong? My first mistake was the wake. I thought it would be a touching tribute to our love, but in retrospect, I see that the miniature-golf course where we had our first date was the last place I should have held the viewing. It wasn't the right atmosphere, what with all the cartoon-character obstacles and screaming kids running circles around the casket. And, when Fran's friends went up to share their personal memories of my wife, the outdoor roller rink next door started up with Classic Rock 'N' Roll Night. Everyone had to yell to be heard over the loudspeakers blaring Deep Purple, the Steve Miller Band, and .38 Special. Thank goodness the DJ finally announced couples-only skating and played some power ballads. As I sat there thinking about all that Fran meant to me, I struggled to hold back the tears. I tried to maintain my composure, but it was hard to concentrate with the bank of video games right behind my chair. I don't think it was just me. When the guests offered their condolences, they seemed distracted by the flashing lights and spinning "High Score" screens. How could I do something like this to my dear, wonderful Fran? I feel so stupid. In my memory, that goofy Golfland where Fran and I stole our first kiss as high-school sweethearts will always be a perfect place. But, evidently, that neighborhood has gotten a lot worse in the decades since I first bought her a milkshake at the concession stand. I felt just awful for Mr. Jensen when I found out he got mugged on the way to his car. Oh Fran, I'm just such a dunderhead sometimes! The next day, the church service was even more awkward. I just wanted to honor Fran's lifelong love of Mexican culture. (We took a last trip to Puerto Vallarta just eight months before stomach cancer claimed her life.) But the 11-piece mariachi band barely fit in that dear little chapel where we were married. I saw a lot of scowls in those pews. I finally asked the band to stop and handed them their pay, including a good-sized tip so they'd clear out fast. But there was a language barrier. And besides, I mess everything up. I don't know how it happened, I just know that instead of stopping, the band launched into the hat dance. Oh, Fran! Can you ever forgive me? At the dinner in the church basement, I was the only one wearing one of the souvenir sombreros. The hot-and-spicy chimichangas were a bust—I had to take home 10 doggy bags—and the kids didn't even touch the Fran-shaped piñata. I should have known to call it quits, but after the memorial service and wake were such failures, I wanted to go all out for the burial. Fran, you always loved animals, and you spent so much time volunteering for that endangered-species group. I remember how you were particularly dedicated to the preservation of African wildlife. I was sick with the agony of loss. Still, I should have paid more attention. I should have read the rental form in its entirety. Fran, my love, honestly, I had no idea the elephant came with a party package until it marched into the graveyard surrounded by a retinue of juggling clowns and costumed dogs. All it took was one look at my relatives' ashen faces to realize what an inappropriate choice I'd made. Oh God, I'm simply no good at organizing things. If Fran were here, she'd have handled everything so much better. Fran, my beautiful darling Fran! I miss you so much! What will I ever do without you?