Why Is Cake Served at a Funeral

Why do they serve cake at a funeral? This question was posed by one of the kids today at the funeral of Tim’s uncle. I thought about the question before I gave an answer. “Because funerals usually provide wonderful opportunities for families and friends to reconnect. Generally, lunch is served afterward so that everyone can visit, and with lunch is typically dessert…cake is easy and everyone likes some flavor or another.  So…cake is social!"

No one probably ever looks forward to a funeral. It isn’t something that you buy a new dress for, or have your hair done or shop a registry like you do for a wedding. There is a lot of grief and mourning as a loved one’s life is remembered. Stanley was 78. He was the brother to eight other siblings (Tim's mom Jeanette is one of them), father to eleven. As sad as a funeral can be, it is also a source of happiness and joy. Family filled the church basement before the funeral mass began. A reunion that provided lots and lots of hugs and kisses and comforting exchanges of love. The sheer number of people—family members—present spoke volumes about the bond of family, the importance of that special relationship that no one can take away. What is the saying? You can pick your friends, but not your family? While not every family maintains closeness, the relation to each other never changes. The line of relatives went up the stairs, lined two walls of the basement and wrapped around tables. Once in the church, we filled more than 12 pews. The church overflowed with additional friends of Stanley’s family.

I love Tim’s family. They are special. There is a unique love shared between each of the sibling’s families. Maybe it’s because their family (Tim’s mom’s family) was a big family. Maybe it’s because some of the siblings remained geographically close when they started their own families. The cousins all know each other. Their children continue to have the chance to get to know each other too. I remember the first time I met Tim’s extended family. The Thanksgiving before we were married, I went with him to his “family Thanksgiving”. It was my first holiday away from home. In my family, Thanksgiving was around a dining table…sometimes with a leaf in it, but always the dining room table. That fall of 1994, we drove to Clarkson to have Thanksgiving dinner in the gymnasium of a school! Talk about overwhelming! I was hugged and kissed and welcomed like I wasn’t a stranger at all. From that moment on, I felt comfortable, welcome, included in this big family. Somehow, their love feels unconditional. It doesn’t matter if you’re big or little, talented or not, quiet or loud…you’re just one of the family. This big Thanksgiving is annual. Easter used to be also until about 5-6 years ago.

The girl cousins get together annually as well. There is never a dull moment. I love how they love. How they love me…how they love my children. How family is so important. There are some cousins that I know much better than others, but for the most part, even if names can’t be remembered…hugs are always in order. That’s just what you do. We drove 400 miles round trip to attend this funeral. We left before we wanted to (we could’ve stayed overnight I’m sure) to make it back for a baseball game, although our boys knew beforehand that we would not guarantee the game. Family comes first. We could have easily been excused to tend to our personal activities, but we wish to make an impression on our children as they grow up about just how important and irreplaceable family is.

I’m glad our children know their cousins…the 1st-once-removed ones, the second ones the second-once-removed ones, the great aunts and uncles—all of them. You would think that we live down the street the way everyone knows names! That’s why cake is served at funerals.

On a side note:

Mathilda is Tim's Grandma (his mom's and Stanley's mother).  This is who our Mathilda was named after.  And while I'm photographing gravesites...

Amelia is my Great Grandmother...Amelia's namesake.  Our children will cherish these connections someday.