Monday, September 10, 2012

Death and Dying ....

A very good friend of mine lost her sister last week.  It was a sudden, heart-breaking loss.
Yesterday, my little chickadee and I went to the wake and it was difficult for me to see my friend so emotionally distraught, but trying to hold up a good front for all the people who were there.  It was also difficult to see her niece and nephews standing in the receiving line, in front of their mother's open casket,  smiling bravely as person after person presented themselves to offer their sympathies.
Today, we will attend the funeral.  They being Irish, it should be quite the party.  (Their mother's funeral was a blast!)
On the way home yesterday, our conversation turned to one we have had many times over the years.
Wakes are really for the living.  For people to pay their respects to the grieving who have been left behind.  But to have to put up such a brave front for hours on end, when all you want to do is curl up and die yourself, is simply not right.
I have visited wakes, paid my respects, and departed.  But it is very difficult for me to be in the same room with an open casket.  I truly have visions of that person moving, twitching, eyes fluttering ...  I simply cannot look at the body.

This irrational fear stems from 1960 when my grandfather died.
I was not quite ten years old and really didn't understand what had happened.  Nobody actually explained to me what death was.  I was taken to the funeral parlour, told to kneel down and say a prayer in front of my grandpa's "sleeping" body in that box.  Then I was told to reach over and kiss him.  I will never forget how his cheek felt on my lips.  I pulled away in horror, and ran from the room crying.  Later, when they put that box in the ground, and I knew that my grandpa was "asleep" in it, I just lost it.  Nothing could console me.
Ever since then, I have had a very strong reluctance to be in a room with an open casket. 
After my father's funeral, back in 1979, I resolved that I would never again subject myself or my loved ones to such an emotional exercise.  (I never did enter the room where my father's body lay in rest.  I stood at the entrance to the room and greeted people that post.)
Those who choose to go out with a two or three-day wake, fine.  But it's not for me.
I have always made it clear that I will not be laid out in an open casket for even one day.  I find the practice barbaric, always have.
As I reminded my daughter yesterday, should I be diagnosed with some terminal illness, only select people will be told. (She told me not to tell her then, because she has a big mouth!)  I don't want people who haven't had time for me throughout my life to come calling just because I'm dying.  And when I go, I am to be cremated immediately, even before notice of my death is given to anyone but her and my husband, should I predecease him.  Only after my remains have been interred should notice of my death be made public.
Then, if those who survive me choose to hold a memorial event of any kind in my honour, so be it.  That event would be attended by their support system, by people who share their loss for them, not necessarily by people who ever knew me.
I personally see no need for those who have not had time for me in life, to come wailing over my death (or impending departure).
Love me while I'm living, not because I'm dead or dying.

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