how would you like it to be? I know it’s a morbid subject, but it’s something I used to think about more often than you might think when I was a kid. Coming from a family where mom was one of 11 and dad one of 10, I have a pretty big extended family. Unfortunately for me, that translated into attending more than my fair share of funerals when I was a young teenager. Of course, I don’t know that there is any “getting used to'” death, but I think there can be a healthy way of looking at it. Death does suck, more than likely more for the people that are left to deal with the emotional kickback than the person that died. We all die at some point in time, there is just no getting around that fact. I think embracing our dearly departed in our hearts and minds keeps their memory forever a part of us.
Most of the funerals that I attended when I was younger involved a two day heart wrenching process with a viewing of the deceased the night before, a short viewing and goodbye in the morning, following by burial and a gathering afterwards. I remember attending my first funeral. It was for one of my aunts who had a long battle with breast cancer. Of course it was a relief on one level that at least her suffering, particularly towards the end, was over. It was so very sad as she was fairly young, and the first brush with death for many of my cousins. It was also very sad as it particularly touched the life of a cousin who was a year older than I, and only entering high school. What a horrible time of your life for your mother not to be present. I know, of course, that it is no replacement, but as a result, my own immediate family became a second home for her, and my mom often served as a surrogate of sorts. If nothing else we offered to my cousin a change of scenery and open hearts to accept her into. I am still very close to her this day, and I’m not sure if we would have been nearly as close had her mother not passed away. As awful is this may sound, I am grateful for that. I think it shows that positive things can and do happen out of devastating circumstances.
Anyway, back to the funeral rite itself, I thought the whole process was so morbid. How bizarre to sit in a room with an embalmed body and have to look at it, and touch it, even kiss it. Of course I did it, and still do as a way of saying goodbye, but I do find it a bit on the gruesome side. Many people like being able to see their bodies so that they can have some closure, but I’m no so sure. Thanks to modern technology, more and more people post photos and even videos of their loved ones at the services. I really like this idea as it presents happier times and evokes memories that will always be a part, or in the case of someone that you may not know very well, it gives you a little window into their soul, and helps to tell a little bit about the story of who they really were. Call me nuts but when I am looking at the dead body, something inside me is screaming they are so not even there, once your gone, the body is just old baggage as far as I’m concerned. I also really love when people have the tenacity to get up and speak about the person who has moved on, particularly if there is some comic relief. It’s okay to laugh a little, I think. It’s a way to celebrate life, and to remind you of all the wonderful memories that no one can ever take away from you.
I can remember joking with my cousins when I was young that if I had to be laid out for all to view in some casket, I’d really like it to be in a bathing suit with some sand beneath my feet, and a beach ball by my side because the ocean is one of those places that more than likely I was at my happiest. If I had my druthers I’d just assume display some happy photo of my life, forgo the whole viewing ordeal and just sprinkle my ashes over the sea somewhere. I also kidded that it’d be awfully swell for my funeral procession to roll through the McD’s drive-thru, as no doubt everyone could appreciate some fries and thick, chocolately shake in the midst of all this gloom and doom–it works up a pretty big appetite, after all. I know it would slow things down a bit, but a little bit of levity would certainly be just what the doctor ordered.
As much as funerals are never really a picnic, particularly if the death is of a young person or more horribly, your own child or spouse. I have to hope that I would realize that regardless of the circumstances, that they are probably in a better place. That’s what keeps me going, anyway, the faith that better things await once we are through with this journey here on earth. I know many people believe that once you are dead, that’s just it, the end of the picture. I am not one of those people. Being Catholic, I believe that heaven awaits if you are a good person. But, religious beliefs aside, from a purely scientific perspective, energy never really goes away, it just morphs into different forms. In super simplified terms, like water for example. It may seem as though water is disappearing when it is hot, but it’s actually just changing into a different form through evaporation. How can you not surmise that your energy does not change into a different form of some sort?
In closing, I’m not overly anxious to exit the building, nor have any of my loved ones do so. But, unfortunately, we all will have to deal with this topic repeatedly over the course of our lives. I want to remind you to live life to it’s fullest, as you never know when your number will be up. Enjoy every moment and treasure all those around you whenever you can. Remember every now and then those that have gone already and keep them with you when you going about your daily life. You’ll be doing this automatically whether you realize it or not by doing something they taught you, repeating a gesture or saying that they did, or even participating in an activity that you may have shared together. So here’s a direct order–have fun at my funeral–because that’s what I would really want to hope for some day. Finding some happiness and laughter, as I hope that’s how folks would remember me by. Keeping those goofy moments in life that I made them laugh or smile is truly the best tribute I could ask for.