The term, “Come as you are,” is not for something as formal, final and sacred as a funeral.
Whenever I see a photo from way back when, there’s one thing that always strikes me.
It might be a scene from a city street, a county fair, a baseball game or just a family gathering, but the people — men and women, boys and girls — are all dressed to the nines. Every one of them looks sharp.
There is such a photo hanging on a wall in the Legends Club at FirstEnergy Stadium, the newly-renamed home of the Cleveland Browns. It is of the Browns taking their first plane ride as a team, going to New York for a game in that inaugural season of 1946. Standing on, and around, the stairs leading into the plane, the coaches and players are attired in suits and ties, with many of them also wearing hats and car coats.
A senior citizens group from the Cleveland suburb of Bedford was taking a tour of the stadium a couple of years ago when a woman who looked to be in her early 80s saw the photo and smiled.
“I remember those times. I was a young girl then,” she said.
Back in those days, the woman explained, everybody made an effort to dress their best. When the soldiers returned from World War II and began piecing together the next chapter of their lives, they made sure to put their best foot forward. According to her, they dressed their best because they never knew who they would run into and where the next job opportunity would lie.
Her words were so thought-provoking that I’ve never forgotten them. In fact, they crossed my mind a couple of weeks ago when I attended the calling hours for a 24-year-old man.
I should have known what was in store when, at the door, I crossed paths with a group of young people who were leaving. The women were dressed in sweat pants, T-shirts and sandals, while the men were in jeans and t-shirts.
When I got inside, there were other young people — and, to be honest, some older adults as well — sporting jeans and tennis shoes.
This isn’t germaine to this particular instance. It’s happened on every trip I’ve made to a funeral home in the last five years. At an aunt’s calling hours, my cousin and her daughter showed up in faded, dirty-looking jeans and T-shirts. They appeared to be dressed more appropriately to cut the lawn out front or trim hedges than to walk into the funeral home.
I fully understand that people are stretched thin with their time, being pulled this way and that, racing from one responsibility to the other. That’s just the way most of our lives are now.
It is greatly appreciated when people make it a point to squeeze into their schedule a trip to the funeral home to pay their respects. But looks bad when people are dressed so poorly, so inappropriately that they call attention to themselves and become a distraction.
Page 2 of 2 - Although it would certainly be nice and the right thing to do, males don’t have to put on a suit and tie nor do females have to wear dresses. Some people simply hate to get dressed up like that, or can’t afford to.
But is it too much to ask someone to leave the sweatpants, jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops and sneakers at home and find a decent pair of pants and shoes and a nice shirt?
This is a funeral. It is a send-off for someone who has died – a remembrance of their life and times. There are no do-overs. This is it for that person. When the funeral is over, the person’s life is officially over. All you’re left with are memories.
As such, then, in some way, shape or form, wasn’t that person significant and meaningful enough to step out of your normal routine and do something a little above and beyond?
We are so concerned with letting people be themselves and express their individual personalities that we have stripped away all the old rules and regulations for how to conduct yourself in public. Now it’s anything goes, no holds barred. The only rule now is that there are no rules.
The term, “Come as you are,” is for groups and businesses trying to buoy membership and customers. It is not for something as formal, final and sacred as a funeral. For that, it should be, “Come as you want to be known.”
And be careful, because you never know who you might run into when you come around that next corner.