Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nina says more about death and stuff

We have just concluded the interminable living room cheese eating event that characterizes the days between the moment of death and the detailing of the body. Now we are detailing ourselves to go to the funeral parlor, which is just around the corner. And this makes me happy. And this fact, that of my happiness, I do not have to keep a secret from the People's Republic of Blogistan: Of all the death events common to most American households, my absolute favorite is the Viewing or even better, the Wake.

Those days of endless cheese calories are necessary, to be sure, but they provide only distraction, not closure.

As for funerals, I have been to my share, and the results, at least for me, are always the same. It is a public display of the mourning family members, who get to sit in the front row and try not to make complete asses of themselves while the rest of the people in the church do whatever letting go they have to do - while, of course, watching the family lest someone come totally unglued and require their laces cut. (No one ever admits that they secretly want to see at least one person lose all composure, because hey, it's the FUNERAL - the LAST GOODBYE to whomever it is everyone put on all the itchy and uncomfortable clothing for. Somebody, anybody be in pain. Show some hurt, please. Otherwise we could have stayed in our sweatpants and watched Antiques Roadshow.

No, funerals are just not good.

I like wakes. Viewings. At a funeral parlor, the deceased is actually in the room, open casket or no, and I still believe that human beings are just enough percentage of monkey to actually need to let go of the bodies of our dead. At a wake, it takes a special kind of selfishness to lose track of the point of the event: someone is dead, and that someone is not you, and though you might be missing Antiques Roadshow right now... it's not about you. And if you are having trouble not thinking about yourself, there is a dead person in the room to remind you to cut it out.

And then by the time the funeral happens, any residual letting go can and does happen, and maybe someone freaks out and requires smelling salts, which is at least sort of interesting. And then everyone goes home and wonders how long they have to wait before it is acceptable to do something normal, like go to a movie.

I saw my mother's body, and the funeral was just an afterthought -- expect that everyone was staring at me and waiting for me to wail and throw myself into the aisle and have a seizure.

I did not see my father's body. I would like to have seen it but I was not allowed to. And truth be told, by the time of his death, I had not really seen the man who raised me and was married to my mother in a very long time. My presence at my father's funeral felt more like an imposition on my step mother than anything else. I could have happily skipped it.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find funerals as useless as I do? Go ahead and disagree - I am pretty sure I am in the minority here.



Avitable said...

I've never been to one. Once the person has moved on, I don't see any point to them.

Maggie said...

I've always been able to let go and weep and wail at funerals, if so moved. For me, it's always felt like the wake where people are fake. Sure, the body's right up there, but everyone is socializing, seeing folks they haven't seen since the last wake or wedding, catching up, chatting, laughing.

Which would be great if they were laughing and celebrating the life of the deceased, but they're usually just chatting about whatever.

sybil law said...

I agree with you - never really got the whole funeral thing.

Catherine said...

I have never been to a funeral. I've been to a couple memorial masses, and they were nice. I think the idea of people who had the person in common getting together and celebrating the life of that person is a natural thing to want to do. It's nice to go over stories and photos, etc., of someone you valued and want to continue to remember. No really strong opinion about the whole thing.

nightfly said...

I'm working out some stuff on the topic right now. I think I'll be quoting you.

clickmom said...

My father died last wednesday and he had a very nice short service. His four daughters (myself included) had been camping out in his hospice room for 4 days and by the time he passed and we arranged for the funeral on Friday we were all emotionally and physically bankrupt. We were hoping that his secret girlfriend would make herself known to us, since we were so happy that he had found someone to keep him company in the 8 months since our mother had died, But since he would not tell us her name, we were unable to contact her and do not believe she was present.

That was a let down, but it was comforting to hear person after person say they loved Dad, as we, his adoring kids know that he was worthy of nothing less than the love of the entire world. What I have no use for, being a jew and all, is the torturous tradition of shiva, where I am required to sit aorund and watch people eat from deli platters while I painfully recount the devasting last week of his life over and over, never quite figuring out how to abbreviate it and tell the whole gut wrenching tale in less than the eternity it takes to recount all the medical malpractice that contributed to the killing if my dad.

Welcome back, BTW, I've missed your writing.

nightfly said...

That sucks badyl, clickmom. So sorry to hear about your dad.

Dagny said...

When my Dad died we just threw together a quick memorial a few days after he died, and then burried him a few days later in a totally different place. The memorial was big, the actual 'funeral' was small.

It was nice to just have his friends get up and tell stories, and have people tell me things I didn't know about him, not sure I would have gotten the same from a church type thing...ours had the booze flowing. I had my share of scotch that night. And I cried.

When I was carrying him to the hole in the ground where we were to leave him, I did not cry. In fact, I was all smiles, and there was no possible way I could cry.

Anyway, I am sure I totally missed the point, but just wanted to say I'm not a fan of funerals, and much prefer the wake type thing.


country roads said...

I like wakes, but try to skip funerals.

Catherine said...

Heelllloooo, in there. Anybody home?

Kate P said...

I don't know how to put into words WHY it is that I disagree. It sounds weird to say that I *need* a funeral. But I do. My parents didn't shelter me from too many of them when I was a kid--and it's weird to hear many of my peers say they hadn't been to a funeral until their 20s.

My great-aunt passed away a couple of weeks ago. She'd been sick a long time with Alzheimer's but her death was still unexpected. And it hurt. We all gathered for her funeral at the church where she was married, where many of our other family members had been married, or buried (so to speak). We needed to get together, to mourn, to remember, to tell a hilarious story of her reaction to my sister's name at the time she was born. . . and in our case (being Catholic) to commend her to God and to take comfort from Him and His promise of eternal life.