I find them archaic, ghoulish, unhelpful in grieving, bizarre, in-opposite to their proposed point, and anything else that might smack of a good reason for having one. I hate ’em.
You can stand all the psychologists in a line and I will say that to each and every face. I don’t believe you have a clue what you are taking about when you suggest that it somehow is “closure.” It’s not. It’s barbaric. Period.
Such is my opinion. But I’m right. Just in case you were about to toss it off as but one woman’s idea. It’s simply the truth. It is beneath the emotional maturity of a 21st century person to engage in such a Gawd awful exercise.
We gathered today for a funeral of my husband’s cousin. It was a painful thing for the Contrarian, because now, the grandparents, most parents, and most aunts and uncles are now interred in Terra firma permanently. We are down to contemporaries–cousins and siblings. One’s own mortality looms ever larger.
We arrived at the quaint Methodist church in the small town where the deceased was “a pillar of the community.” A fine showing indeed, as the church pews were filled and the rest of us sat listening from the basement kitchen area. The usual prayers, hymns ensued. (Another rendition of Amazing Grace of course–I never say “a poor wretch like me”–Catholics priest and sisters taught me that long ago–we eliminate the word wretch, much as I do in the Nicene Creed “for us (men) and our salvation”–I eliminate the word men–again taught to me by another priest).
Someone always breaks into tears giving the family eulogy. Soon everyone is drying eyes. I cry at the only hymn that ever makes me cry–“here I am Lord.” I don’t cry much, just get a bit watery.
We burst from the confines of the church to wander around and meet up with folks not seen for years. We locate the Contrarian’s brother, who always flies in from where-ever ( they live in Chicago). It’s almost the only time we see them, funeral or wedding. The Contrarian shakes hands and sometimes a hug with other cousins. They all look questioningly at me–yes eleven years and most have no clue who I am yet.
We finally break for the car, parked a full block away–I said the guy was the pillar of the community–not quite making it. Two other young cousins have spotted my husband and just have to say hi.
Mostly this “after” time is filled with laughs and back slapping, and introductions. Nothing is said about the deceased. Everyone is mildly ill-at-ease.
We stop off at the grocery/florist and pay for the flowers we sent to the “showing” which we did not attend. (I hate those worse than funerals) We can see that we can’t proceed but a block. The local fire truck is lit up and a few young kids have been co-opted to hold traffic until the funeral cortege has filed onto the Walker Rd.
We finally get to resume, following the last vehicle, a truck with blinking lights. Heading for the Troy Mills cemetery where nearly everyone in interred. The Contrarian’s folks are there, as are, well every one of note.
We peel off at Alice Road, just a few hundred feet from the Cemetery entrance. From there to Campfire and then back to the Troy Rd. and home.
We are skipping the “meal” at the bowling alley after the grave site, events. Festivities seems the wrong word, grave site event? We have spoken to those who we needed to, everyone has seen that we were there, the book has been signed.
For those in deep grief over the untimely death, all this is what? Goes by in a blur? Strange moments of memory, punctuated by strange faces smiling, laughing, children running, the same old tried and true, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” refrain. How is this helping?
Attendees are awkward, not knowing what to say, how long to say it, and how to disengage. Everyone is looking for someone or something to save them. At the awful meals, you just want to eat, find someone you’d like to talk to, chat about family, kids, the economy. It’s all so dreary, and there is less and less mention of, you know, poor Ronnie.
You mumble some more half-meant words of condolence and take off. You declare it a “fine” funeral, the food good, bad, or okay. You undoubtedly talk about how “good” this one looked, and how bad that one looked. You predict the next death.
You shudder at the grave site, if you went, as you think of the body inside the box. Seeing it there, above the hole, makes it so other worldly. I recall how my aunt was appalled that I kept a closed casket for my dad. I knew way too many funerals and recall the death face too well. I hate it. I’m glad I didn’t have to see Ronnie’s death face.
I would think a well-timed letter to the family might be worth more. Highlights of memories that make one smile, feel proud, or laugh out loud. Poignant pieces of paper that can be kept and taken out and lovingly re-read.
But that’s just me. I only know what I don’t want and that is people peering down at me in all my made-up mask, talking about how “good I look” and then talking about “Phil’s new promotion” next to my cold bones.
Throw me in a pit and let me feed the earth. It is not me any longer. I’m long gone. I’m sailing among the stars, unencumbered by flesh. My Father has allowed a two-week tour of the galaxy before I get on to work, helping his children on distant words.
That’s just the way I see it.