For some reason, a bunch of unaccompanied toddlers came to my grandma’s funeral last week. It’s still unclear where their parents were or how they knew my grandma, but they were all grieving very hard, to the point where it was a huge distraction. Here’s a list of all the toddlers who showed up at my grandma’s funeral and how intensely each one was grieving.
1. The one who kept going on stage and singing “You Raise Me Up”
Maybe 30 seconds after the funeral started, this toddler came out of nowhere and wandered up on stage. At first I thought he was just some cute kid who had gotten away from his parents, but then he grabbed a microphone, took his shirt off, and started singing the Josh Groban song “You Raise Me Up” in his loudest opera voice. The priest very quickly picked him up and carried him off stage, but he kept coming back again and again, each time sweatier and more emotional than before. After the sixth or seventh time, we finally just let him sing the entire song, hoping he would get it out of his system and stop interrupting. But nope. He finished singing, and then he collapsed to the floor in anguish, grasping at my grandma’s coffin and wailing “God took you too soon!” even though Grandma was 98.
2. The one who was rolling around in a bassinet on her own accord
This toddler was rolling around the funeral home in a Victorian bassinet, but no one was pushing her. She was making it move on her own somehow. I couldn’t really get a good look at her because she was swaddled up to the eyes in sheets, but I could definitely hear her when she’d roll past me. She was grunting the words “Mama dead” over and over again and quietly sobbing. She was relatively well-behaved for most of the funeral, although when they were carrying Grandma’s coffin out at the end, her bony little hand sprung out of the bassinet and scratched one of the pallbearers really hard. Then she tried following the hearse to the cemetery but couldn’t quite keep up, and eventually her bassinet just toppled over sideways in a ditch on the side of the road. This toddler was kind of scary.
3. The one who climbed into my grandma’s coffin
A real oddball, this one. He showed up to the funeral home an hour early in a limousine, wearing nothing but a Sesame Street diaper and sunglasses. The chapel hadn’t been opened up to guests yet, but that didn’t stop him from bursting through the doors, strutting down to Grandma’s coffin, and straight-up climbing inside. The whole family was still out in the lobby area at this point, so he was able to just be in the coffin with Grandma for a good 20 minutes before Uncle Dale finally found him. The little guy was just lying in there banging around a sippy cup and holding Grandma’s hand. The weird thing is that, unlike the other toddlers, he didn’t seem to be particularly sad. I think he just liked being in the coffin because it was quiet and warm.
4. The one who walked in, loudly said, “And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why you don’t drink and drive,” and then immediately left
Grandma died from natural causes, so I don’t know what the hell this toddler was talking about.
5. The one who wouldn’t stop comforting me
This toddler was really annoying. I had never met her before, but for some reason she kept coming up to me, putting her hand on my shoulder, and saying things like, “Your grandma’s in a better place now, Rob,” and, “It’s not your fault, Rob, you did everything you could to save her.” I told her that my name wasn’t Rob, but she just calmly shushed me and said, “Shhh, yes it is, Rob, you’re just very confused and sad right now, and that’s okay.” She then held a tissue up to my face and made me blow my nose. I asked her to leave me alone a few times, but she kept coming back, reminding me again and again that crying didn’t make me any less of a man, even though I wasn’t crying. I eventually ended up losing my patience and telling her I’d give her a spanking if she didn’t leave me alone, at which point she apparently went and told my sisters that she was worried about me and thought I might try to kill myself, prompting my sisters to immediately stage a psychiatric intervention right there in the middle of Grandma’s funeral. And while that was happening, guess what? That fucking toddler stole my wallet and flushed it down the toilet. Unbelievable.
By the way, just a side note, you would assume that all these toddlers were friends or something, but it actually didn’t seem like they knew each other. They never talked or acknowledged each other or anything, and they all came independently. Go figure.
6. The incredibly distraught Italian
This toddler walked into Grandma’s funeral wearing a black dress and veil and was wailing hysterically in Italian. I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, but you could tell he was absolutely devastated. He was going around shoving a framed photo of my grandma in front of people’s faces and frantically pointing at it while screaming in a language no one could understand, and then later he got down on his hands and knees in front of Grandma’s coffin and started flagellating himself with a power cord and spitting up everywhere. It was nuts. My uncle Dale went up and tried to give him some Altoids to calm him down, but he smacked the Altoids away and shouted belligerently in Italian some more. Eventually his grief just became too much for him, and he fainted right next to Grandma’s coffin clutching a string of prayer beads. As far as I’m aware, Grandma didn’t speak Italian. I’m not sure how this toddler would’ve known her.
7. The one whose grief was honestly deeply moving
This kid. Wow. It’s hard to describe just how powerful it was to see him say goodbye to my grandma. He walked up to the coffin alone before the service and just stood there, looking tired and broken. There was a certain heaviness to his presence that you wouldn’t expect from a 3-year-old—a depth of feeling you couldn’t ignore. All the conversations in the room suddenly trailed off, and everyone directed their attention to this boy, this tiny heartbroken boy, as he touched his tiny hand to the coffin as if feeling for a heartbeat or some other sign of life, weeping in the cold, silent way of an old man who’s already lost everything, whose grief is final and beyond consolation. The boy took out a picture book titled Guess How Much I Love You with a watercolor of a mother and baby rabbit on the cover, and he opened it and held it out to the coffin as if hoping my grandma would read it to him. And when he saw that she couldn’t, he tried reading the book to himself, flipping through the pages and reciting the few stray words and phrases he knew by heart. But it wasn’t the same. Defeated, he threw the book aside and then flung himself onto the floor, convulsing violently on the carpet with sorrow, overwhelmed by feelings he could not understand or control. “No, no, don’t go bye-bye,” he wailed, his hand reaching toward the coffin. “Don’t go bye-bye, friend!” It was so goddamn sad—not a single dry eye in the house. Seemed like that little dude really, really loved my grandma. Nobody in my family had any idea who that toddler was, but I’m glad he got to say goodbye.