As I listened to the funeral director offer bromides about the brother of an elderly friend at the wake I attended this week, I found myself thinking -- inexplicably -- about the "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of the late, lamented Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Chuckles is the clown who appears on the news show Mary writes for in her eponymous sitcom. In this famous episode from 1975, Lou Grant tells the newsroom that Chuckles, outfitted as Peter Peanut in the city parade, is killed by a rogue elephant that "tried to shell him." The clip above is from Chuckles' service at the funeral home (whose slumber room of thirty-plus years ago, a dead ringer for the one I sat in yesterday, suggests that funerary décor never goes out of style).
Moore's famous segment is both hysterical and poignant. It came to mind, I think, because its fictional pastor manages to do what my director hadn't: capture in brief the humanity, the essence of the deceased. In this case, Chuckles' pastor moves one mourner to both laughter and tears, those perfect expressions of celebration and loss.
Mark Harris, author Grave Matters (www.gravematters.us)