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showy displays

on sunday my mother, cam and i attended a funeral service for one of my mother's friends. she had recently died after a long struggle with cancer. because she had always been kind to my family (and had showered paul with little gifts), i felt like going to her final hurrah was the least i could do.

my mother had always talked about how her friend's children had long been a source of sadness for her. her two children were estranged from each other for reasons that my mother claimed her friend never knew. they did not talk to each other, they did not visit each other, they did not have any contact with each other at all. all my mother's friend wanted was for her children to mend this rift and be a family again.

knowing this history, i wondered what was going to happen at the funeral. imagine my surprise when her son mentioned (while at the podium) that he had told his mother upon her deathbed that he was going to make things right. apparently, she then relaxed as if this was the moment she had been waiting for in order to die peacefully. after telling this story, he invited his sister up for a hug -- much to the pleasure of the people in the chapel.

okay, i don't have anything against deathbed promises -- what you say to people at the end of their lives to make them feel better is your business -- but i felt like this was the most show-offiest, most pretentious gesture i had seen in a long time. here, he was saying, i am the best child. i am making the effort. and i am doing this before all of you so that you can see that i am the best child.

i understand that i am not the best judge here -- i don't know the full story. everything i have is filtered through my mother's lens. i watched this scene with something akin to contempt. it felt like smoke and mirrors and oneupmanship. i was sure that my mother would have the same feelings about it. it felt fake. faker than fake.

on the way to the car, my mother and a friend (who had carpooled with us) talked about how great it was that the children were reconciling. i inwardly sighed.



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