You should go

Your aunt’s longtime boyfriend passed away yesterday. Funeral is Saturday at 10 near you, you should go.

Ok, so that isn’t exactly how the text read, but that’s how I remembered it. Now, I don’t really know this aunt. I know she was at all of our family events but she was always hanging out with the other adults who didn’t have kids. I knew the aunts and uncles who had children my age, the lawyer who had one kid my age, and one my brother’s. I remember the aunt who finally got married when I was in middle school (that was a fun summer). I remember the uncle who was never there because he was travelling, so his wife and kids would be there. I don’t really remember this aunt. I know my parents are pretty close to their siblings, so I know why they’re going. Nowhere though did it make sense for me.

There are a number of reasons why I don’t want to go:

  • I don’t do funerals. Period. I didn’t go to my grandfather’s funeral, I probably won’t go to my grandmother’s funeral. My wife is well aware that I might not even attend her funeral if the situation presented itself. And my will is needing updated to ban people from having a funeral for me. My wife knows, she understands that I don’t want a bunch of people gathering talking about the “best things about me.” I’m a huge fan of the concept of the “Speaker for the dead” presented in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series.
  • Even if I occasionally did funerals, this is 6 hours round trip
  • I already had plans
  • I barely know the aunt
  • I never met the deceased (even though he apparently was a long-term boyfriend)
  • I am an adult with my own decisions to make and I have no compelling draw to go.

So why then do I feel like I will be judged if I don’t go? Perhaps it’s because my parents make a point (on a semi-regular basis) of how their younger son (not me) who is still actively pursuing a degree (instead of 80k in student loan debt crushing him, like me) is doing everything right. So when that younger son decides he is going to this funeral, despite having all of the same disconnects from this aunt and the deceased that I do, I feel silently judged. It doesn’t help that I’ve also elected not to make the 8 hour each way trip the weekend after for my cousin’s wedding.

This all raises an interesting point to me. Why are some events practically compulsory? Am I going to “burn in hell” because I didn’t go to some family function that I would be uncomfortable at anyways? Does my family’s desire to see me trump my desire to not see them? Do I think it would be different if these things were presented more as an opportunity and I had the sense that it was really a free choice with no consequences? Probably, yes they would, but this is not how these things are worded. In addition, my parents are well aware that I have weekends free and no practical thing preventing me from making this trip.