When old Joe died....

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A funny side to traditional Norwegian funerals in days past

Submitted: June 06, 2010

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Submitted: June 06, 2010

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When old Joe died...

When old Joe died, he wasn’t going out without a fight so to speak, or should I say he wasn’t ready to be put in the ground. As is the rule or tradition in Norway when somebody dies, they are laid out in their best for everyone to come to pay their respect. So for three days they come and go and the mead and beer flow and food is cooked around the clock to feed the hungry mourners, as it is as much a celebration as showing your respect.
Most of the people came from faraway so they was camping in the barn or spare rooms on nearby farms and since they are all small farms they were just walking distances apart. So, for the three days before the internment, the festivities and mourning continued unabated.
Now I have to explain a thing or two. Since all the farms lay in clusters in between mountains, dales, lakes and rivers, every piece of land was precious for farming, so the cemetery was located on a little island in the fjord that was too little for farming, but big enough for a cemetery. When there was a burial you had to travel all the way down to the fjord and then be shuttled across to the cemetery on the island. Since the only boats they had were small rowboats or small fishing boats, it was a long journey to get a body in the ground. 
Now I was only about five or six years old at the time so I cannot remember every detail of the event. On the third day the parades of horses and carts started to line up in front of the main building to take Joe on his last drive to the cemetery. Since it would take a few hours to get to the fjord, food and beer was loaded on to the wagons or carts to keep the mourners happy. Eventually they were ready and the procession got underway. The first six or seven horse drawn carts carried the closest relatives and friends, then the horse and cart that carried the coffin and Joe, then the rest of the mourners.
Eventually the funeral party arrived at the dock where the minister was waiting to give Joe his blessing before the ferry boat takes him to his final resting place on the other side of the fjord. The minister look pleased with the procession, because in those days it was customary to give the minister gifts for his services, like hams, barrels of home made beer and hampers and such to see him through to the next funeral. In return, the minister would lavish praise on the deceased so the bigger the hampers the bigger the praises.
At the funerals there never was any mention of fire and brimstone as that was reserved for the congregation on Sundays, and, as my dad mused, the more fire and brimstone the more fun the minister had the week before because he surely reminisced on his own life style. As dad said, he might be the man of the cloth and not toiling the soil, but in his opinion had more sex than the average farmer.
But, back to the funeral, let the fun begin, because this turned out to be a real circus. As one horse and cart after another came down the last hill to the fjord, there was a lot of hand shakes and commiserations until someone asked where Joe’s coffin and cart was.
Everyone looked at one another with question marks on their faces. The driver of Joe’s cart was there but no Joe, but the coffin driver was so drunk on home made rocket fuel that he hardly knew where he was, let alone what day it was.
This is where superstition took over and any rationale went out the window so to speak. The minister was crossing himself and little old ladies were wailing and looking to the heavens. It was truly a miracle, Joe had simply disappeared into thin air with no sign that he ever existed. Maybe, someone suggested, the Vallkyre’s had come down and took him straight to Valhalla. After all, he was descendent of the Vikings. Somebody even suggested that he might have offended the trolls in the mountains and they had spirited him into the mountain. Eventually sanity prevailed and they started to search the route they had travelled, but to no avail.
They then formed a committee to find out what had happened. The driver of the funeral cart was of no use with information as it took him a day and a half to even remember who he was. So the search went on, eventually the driver remembered that he had run out of grog and walked back two horse and carts to continue drinking as a horse will always follow the cart in front. So there were no worries, right? Wrong answer!
 And so it came to pass that the one place nobody had looked was a little used track along the main road, over grown with lush green grass leading down to the oldshooting range, not used since the war finished. Grazing peacefully was the horse and the wagon and coffin all in good order, but after six days in the sun, in a land where the sun doesn’t set in the summer; there was quite a stink and rumbling coming from the coffin. An elder swore he heard old Joe talk. When asked what he said, he said it didn’t make sense but he thought he said. “Enough is enough, beam me up Scotty. “ 
Old Joe was a big man and born way ahead of his time, sk?l, we drink to that.


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