My week started with a wedding and ended with a funeral...from the ceremony that signals a new start in life to the final ceremony for each of us. Both events were out of town.
The wedding was in Lafayette, Louisiana--known for its Cajun hospitality, wonderful food, and friendly people--in a reconstructed Cajun village called Vermilionville (within the city of Lafayette itself), which is charming, warm and welcoming. The ceremony was in a little wooden church lit by candlelight (battery-operated--real candles a fire hazard) and the reception in an authentic "fais-do-do" hall. I am sentimental about weddings and found this one especially meaningful. The couple, both in their late 30s and both getting married for the first time, met via an online dating service, at a point when each had nearly given up on ever finding the right person. They had promised themselves to take one last chance, but to quit if it didn't work out. Amazingly, each knew from when they first met face-to-face that This Was It. Romantic. It was a terrific wedding, too.
Then two days after I returned home, a lifelong friend called with news that her father had died. The funeral was the day after Thanksgiving, in Baton Rouge. His death was neither a surprise nor a shock--he was ninety years old and had been ailing for a while--but we all grieve at the loss of a dearly loved person.
There were a few customs at this funeral different from the funerals I have known in the New Orleans area: (1) As the vehicle procession drove from the funeral home to the cemetery, a distance of several miles--lights and emergency flashers on, escorted by two motorcycle cops--all the oncoming traffic pulled to the side of the road and waited for the procession to pass. In the New Orleans area, drivers stop when halted by a motorcycle escort to let a procession pass through traffic lights, but none in driving lanes not directly affected by the procession stops or pulls over to wait. (2) At the cemetery, the family members went to the graveside upon arrival, but the non-family mourners waited until the pallbearers had carried the casket to the grave before following the family members. (3) At the end of the graveside service, all the pallbearers pulled out their boutonnieres and placed them on the casket, presumably to be interred with it.
I always finds funerary customs fascinating. (Naturally, since my ancestor, the Great Sphinx, was once a tomb.)