Last week I wore a bright red dress to the wrong funeral.
It was a Wednesday, a sweltering Alabama August. I pulled up to Elmwood Cemetery on my own, wearing the red dress as requested by the deceased. Miss Ellie was a friend of the family and a devoted University of Alabama fan who requested that everyone wear Crimson Tide colors to her funeral. Nothing formal or stuffy, but comfortable clothing to pay homage to her favorite team.
After going through my closet for some time that morning. One of our wedding vows was that I would attend at least one Alabama game each year, a vow that I haven't quite kept, so my Crimson options were few and far between. I settled on my favorite red dress.
While leaving the house Shane said:
"That looks like Arkansas. Or Georgia." Hmpf.
Back to Elmwood Cemetery. It's one of the largest in Birmingham, filled with characters from Alabama's history (including Bear Bryant himself). So large that a security guard gives visitors directions to the plot they're visiting. After getting directions, I drove back, past rows and rows of headstones until I saw a green tent surrounded by mourners.
They were wearing suits. I called my Dad, who was on the way over with Mom from the visitation, which I'd missed.
Me: "Dad, there are people wearing suits. Is this the right funeral?"
Dad: "There were some people in suits. I'm sure it's the right one. Just walk up."
Me: "Um, OK. Wait, I see some red ties. I'm going to go see."
This is a good time to mention that while I know a few of the deceased family members, I don't know many. So, as I walked up the hill toward the plot, there weren't any faces I recognized. Getting closer, my patent leather pumps sinking into the earth and red dress calling out like a stop sign, I began to get nervous.
I recognized no one.
And nobody was wearing Alabama clothes.
I started to get the feeling that this was the wrong funeral.
Awkward doesn't even begin to describe it.
By the time this all registered I was standing amongst the mourners, trying to discretely get a look at the headstone to look for a name. Could I ask the minister? What to do? Then, with my face had the same crimson shade as my dress, I was approached by a man.
Man: "Thank you so much for coming."
Me: "I am so sorry for your loss." (At this point I totally can't ask whose funeral this is.)
Man: "Remind me of your name?"
Me: "I'm Erin Street." (Thinking, "Please don't ask how you and or the deceased know me!")
Man: "Well, Erin, we sure would love for you to join us at the luncheon at my house on _________ (name removed to protect the poor man whose relative's funeral I crashed).
Me: "That is so kind of you, and I do appreciate it" (Said nervously while I looked for my parents.) "I'm just looking for Mom and Dad."
Man: "Well I hope they come to the luncheon too."
Me: "Um, um ... If you will excuse me, I think I see them now."
At which point a blur of bright red could be seen shimmying to her car, while a group of confused funeral-goers looked on, probably wondering what kind of person would wear a red dress to a funeral. (The nerve! The scandal! Was she the mistress, there to make claims on her share of the estate? Mercy!)
I did find the right funeral a few minutes later -- it was just down the hill from the first one. Most everyone was wearing their Crimson Tide red. It was a beautiful service for a beautiful person. I knew I was in the right place.