How to Host a Funeral


Meditation on Postmodernism, Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack

Most importantly: food. Good food. Some families think those bullshit little hors d’oeuvres will cut it, but they won’t. You really think Lisa and her six kids won’t complain if they drove from Oregon and you just serve pancetta on wheat crackers? Honestly.

Be sure to look appropriately disheveled to show mourning. The gesture will signal to the out-of-towners that you cared for the deceased. But don’t look sloppy, that’s just embarrassing.  

At the reception someone has to say, “The deceased is surrounded by family— ” (it would’ve been nice if it had been said as the deceased was dying, but impromptu travel is such a hassle). Make sure they say this in a voice that quivers just enough to sound emotional. If they do cry, make sure it’s a tasteful amount; otherwise, the extended family will feel awkward.

You should be gracious to everyone who offers you condolences. Restrain yourself from asking why the fuck they bothered. Ask how they like the food. Notice halfway through that you are leaning against the open casket and share an appropriately mournful look with the deceased before straightening up.

Only excuse yourself to the bathroom twice. Any more than that and someone will feel obligated to start checking on you while you cry, and that would ruin their evening. Try to be considerate. 

Do your best not to notice Uncle Mark hitting on his daughter’s friend. It would be rude to make a scene, he does this at every funeral. It’s just a quirk he has.

You will notice partway through the evening that the deceased has conspicuously shifted to the left side of the coffin. This will make it slightly more difficult for people to say their farewells, but it is ultimately unavoidable. You should dismiss it, should anyone bring it up.

Ignore the snide comment Lisa makes about the flower arrangements. They’re lovely.

Halfway through dinner cousin Beatrice will drop her wine glass and squeal when she realizes that the deceased has moved totally onto their shoulder. Smartly, she will recover quickly and excuse her behavior and the glass she has shattered. She will not comment on this, and you shouldn’t either. Smile blithely as she stumbles through her condolences. 

Then, take a smoke break outside. Uncle Mark will come out with you and bitch about Lisa’s kids. You should decide whether to side with him or Lisa, and laugh accordingly. Don’t linger with him outside too long; he tends to make things awkward. 

When you return there will be a small commotion. The deceased will have rolled onto their stomach, and the line for farewells will dissipate, diverting themselves with the promise of dinner.

There is nothing you can do to stop this now. Take a seat at a table. Disregard the deceased’s shuffling behind you. Lisa’s kids are sitting across from you. Thu-thunk. The casket shudders. Watch as the kids swallow without tasting. As the food collects on their lips and smears their face. They tilt their glasses until cheap mocktail rolls down their cheeks. Someone asks when we should read the will. Thunk. The deceased is picking up speed now. Food slips down their necks and pools in their laps. THUNK. Listen as the body turns. 

They will gorge. 

About the Author

Carolynn Dunn · St. Edward’s University

Carolynn lives in San Antonio with her many plants. She delights in writing about the mundane horrors and hopes of the human experience. Her recent work explores the tumultuous relationship between people, climate, and faith. She graduated from St. Edward’s University in 2020 and her work has been featured in the Sorin Oak Review and the New Literati.

About the Artist

Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack · 

Working across disciplines, Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack creates vibrant, engaging, and often visceral work. Trained as an architect and researcher, Jaxon has harmoniously blended his passions and talents into an artistic practice that spans mediums and genres. Whether through digital photography and collage, painting, sculpture, or writing, Jaxon explores what it means to be human and to find beauty in that shared experience, giving voice to the narratives that shape us. Based in Minneapolis, Jaxon works in public art, helping support the work of other artists, creating greater access and exposure. When he is not working on his writing or art, Jaxon is restoring and remodeling an 1886 Victorian home with his husband.

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