Edward Pratt: Funerals help put life in perspective

I have plans to attend two funerals this week. Because of other things I had planned recently, I was not able to attend four others in the past two weeks.

Since January of this year, I have attended at least 15 funerals. On two occasions, I attended two in one morning. I wonder if I am getting to the point when, because of my age, I am prone to seeing more of my friends, their parents and my friends’ children die.

I don’t have to tell you my age. But you can guess from some of my past writings that I was born before Hula Hoops became popular and even before John F. Kennedy decided to run for president. So you have a good idea.

To give you another hint about my age, as a child, I saw a wake and funeral held in a neighbor’s “front room.” As the young folk say, “You feel me?”

This long string of funerals is tough. I have been to the services of former coworkers and parents of my friends. There are a lot of emotions to deal with. You peer into the coffins, and often the face that you see is not the one you remember.

One friend, in particular was Reynauld Walters. He was older and left-handed, just like me. He showed me how to pitch a baseball when I was trying out for a Little League team.

He gave me batting tips because as lefties, we often had righties trying to teach us, and that often didn’t work out so well. I liked him, too, because he had an odd sense of humor. I hadn’t seen him in many years, but I remember listening to his jokes like it was yesterday.

Recently, I went to the funeral of a person who, only a few months ago, I would send this column to on Friday mornings. I could count on Gary to say something sarcastic when it arrived.

I am not one of those folk who see all of these funerals as some grim sign of my mortality. I have long since believed that your time is up at any age.

I say this because I was struck head-on by a car when I was 6 years old. I walked right in front of it near a crowd of people leaving Bible school at New Jerusalem Baptist Church. For all practical purposes, I should have been dead then. Every day since then has been lagniappe.

But I don’t know what sets 2014 apart from prior years. There seems to be a preponderance of death among my circle of friends and relatives. I guess everything has its season.

And, as I was composing this column, I received a text from my high school class message board that the grandson of one of my classmates had died and that a wake and funeral were planned for this weekend. That’s another funeral added to my agenda.

I don’t remember noticing that my grandmother or my parents attended as many funerals as I have. However, I don’t know if they were as connected to their peers as I am.

There have been times I would tease my wife because she attended so many funerals for cousins of a friend of a friend. “It’s out of respect for the friend of a friend,” she would say bluntly. Nuff said, I guess.

Even with that rationale, I don’t think she has gone to as many funerals as I have so far this year. At this pace, I will be attending more than 30 funerals this year. I hope not.

Of course, I am in strong support of my contention that I don’t want be the guest of honor at a wake or funeral anytime soon.

In recent years, I have adjusted to whatever ailments I have and reduced my complaining about little aches and pains because things could be a lot worse.

My comment now when someone asks me, “How are you doing?”:

I respond, “Since I’m north of dirt, I’m fine.”

Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com.