Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nonconformists

I've finally caught up with the lengthy list of unread posts hanging out in my reader this morning. My but you're all such prolific writers!

The dust has finally settled here in metro Detroit and things should start getting back to normal. We have a huge job ahead of us going through my husband's childhood home, but we have time, and there is no sense of real urgency about getting those tasks done. One day at a time is how we'll tackle that particular task.

For the third time in six years, we hosted a no funeral-funeral. No funeral home. Direct cremation. A relaxing wake. No stress. The first time we elected to eschew tradition, tongues wagged. "What do you mean she won't be laid out?" Those were my mother in law's wishes. She couldn't bear the thought of people looking into her casket and remarking on how good she looked when she knew she would only look dead and waxy, or worse, commenting on what cancer had done to her body. We honored her wishes by having a mass, followed by a wake at her home. We passed out carnations, her favorite flower, to everyone who came to the mass. While it felt odd to host a send off in such a manner, we were acutely aware of how relaxed everyone seemed to be. At her wake, friends and family stayed for hours and hours sharing their thoughts, love and the stories of her life. If this had been a traditional funeral, perhaps they'd have stayed 30 minutes or so, or maybe for the rosary, but I can almost guarantee, they would not have stayed for hours on end.

The second time we had a no funeral-funeral was when my own mother died, and since that was the other side of the family, tongues were still wagging about the lack of a viewing at the funeral home, but my entire immediate family had enjoyed the stress free wake for my mother in law and wanted the same for my mom. We had a mass, then a luncheon and enjoyed the stress free community of friends and family back at my mom's house.

Funerals are not for the dead, but for the living, and for survivors, our family believes there should be no stress. By itself, loss is hard enough. Having a body laid out for two days, followed by a day of funeral services is emotionally exhausting and we choose not to go there anymore. Though tongues may still wag, many are coming around to our way of thinking. At the wakes we've hosted, there are still some tears and sadness, but if you stand back and survey, you see people sharing stories and memories with much more laughter and lightheartedness than you'd expect.

We held MLTL's wake on Friday afternoon and had the event catered at his home. We didn't expect a huge turnout since many of his peers have already left this earth, but about 100 people showed and most stayed for hours. The old folks gathered on the back porch or under shade trees sharing funny stories and the youngsters gathered in the family room playing games on my son's Xbox. No children were traumatized by viewing the deceased in a casket and to my knowledge, no tongues were wagging. The extended family must be getting used to the way we choose to send off our loved ones because from the looks of it, though it was a solemn occasion, they seemed to all be relaxed and enjoying one another's company. My sister in law's friend, fresh from the three day funeral of her own mother, mentioned she wished they'd done her mother's funeral our way.

Just because we choose to do things a little differently, doesn't make us wrong, though I'm quite certain that the traditional funeral home operators would likely disagree. I can't be swayed though...I'd really rather spare no expense on a wake that celebrates the life of the honoree, than spend the same money on a sad event.

It's really OK to literally think outside the box.




26 comments:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i think this is a lovely way to send a tribute to a loved one's life and will think about this for myself. great idea. i never liked funeral homes. or caskets laying open and walking up to it and then finding the quickest way out afterward. you are right honey!

smiles, bee
xxoxooxxoox

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. I read a book several years ago called Caring for Your Own Dead. I believe it's revised every year. It's a state-by-state list of the rules for cremation and the transportation of the body. I love the way you celebrate your loved ones lives instead of their deaths. It seems so tragic to me how much society has tried to take the 'business' of life and death out of our hands. Who better to manage the way we exit this earth than the people who cared for us most? Bravo.

Quiltluver said...

I had my first experience with a no funeral "wake" when my brother died last year. It felt a little strange at first, but it turned out to be a relaxing day with everyone sharing lots of stories and pictures. It was held at the local Eagles lodge my brother had been a part of for many years.

I'm sorry for you and your family's loss.

Stephanie V said...

That's how I'd like to end my stay here...I am totally with you on this.
You can hear some pretty good stories about those old days at a wake!

Miss 376 said...

Sounds a lot better, and good for you all doing what is right for you and your family. Sharing all those memories is a great way to begin the healing process

Brenda said...

Talk about excellent writing, Rudee...you did a wonderful post here. I could not agree with you more... on this way of remembering a loved one. I have never really understood the point of an expensive casket and viewing of a body that does not resemble the person at all. I think I may have visited one person that did look like they did when they were living, but most do not. I remember when my grand mother died, how one of my Aunts went on and on about how good she looked. I looked at her and said...she just looks dead to me. She thought I was horrible for saying that, but I spoke the truth, and I was a young smart ass at the time.
I do not want a funeral either. Cremation and maybe a simple mass. Funny stories are my favorite ways to remember loved ones.
By the way...thanks for recommending the books by Tess Gerritsen. I am on my third one in the series.

Silliyak said...

My "instructions" are that "I'm dead, do what you need to feel better" which I'm guessing will be similar to your celebration of Life, which is also what we've done for my brother, Step FIL, mom, MIL..... probably missed missed someone...

Gail said...

I do think that is an excellent idea. I want to be cremated with no fuss, no services.

Dad was graveside with veteran's honors, pictures of him, no viewing. It was much less stressful than Mom's passing.

Rositta said...

Good post Rudee...we did you your way when my mom died. We had a grave site service when her ashes were buried and the wake at home. Since we did the same for my dad most of our friends were also used to it. It was also what my mom wanted. I put it in writing for my offspring that I wish the same for me. Too bad about the funeral parlors, they need to learn to lay off the hard sell and guilt trips when people are mourning...ciao

Knitty said...

My understanding is that once upon a time, the casket was on display in the family home. Flowers were brought in mask odors. Funeral homes were welcomed by those who could afford their services and soon became commonplace.

Whatever is best for the deceased's loved ones should not be ridiculed by others.

Devon said...

How wonderful. We just did my grandmother's funeral this way earlier this month.
At the church we had a 20 minute service... where her deaf brother spoke over the minister very loudly proclaiming they wouldn't need to dig a very big hole to bury her tiny box of ashes.
Nice to have some laughter at a sad time!

Rudee said...

Devon, while I'm very sorry for your loss, I appreciate you sharing the humor from your grandmother's funeral. You'll always tell that story now and it will forever bring a smile to your face.

NCmountainwoman said...

I totally agree with you. Good luck as you struggle through clearing out the house. (Better check the freezer for frozen half of a birthday cake).

The Bug said...

My mother was pretty adamant about not being put in a box or having people look at her after she was gone - freaked her out just to think about it. She didn't even want her ashes to be put anywhere in particular, but her best friend really needed somewhere to grieve (what mom was hoping to avoid) - & since this is for the living my dad interred some of mom's ashes at the cemetery. I have some too, in a little jug.

Mike is having a really hard time thinking about his mother being buried in a box. She was traditional & so is his father, so that's what they wanted. But he's having a REALLY hard time with it.

Denise said...

It sounds like it was a lovely tribute.

Ruth said...

Glad the dust is settling and that he had a appropriate send off. Love to you all.
It sounds as though funerals are bigger in your part of the world than here although they vary here depending on family religion and what is wanted there seems to be less should do's.
Mostly they involve some sort of service religious or not we have funeral celebrants who will conduct your funeral with out religion. The body may or may not be viewed but that will be just prior to the service sometime there is a short service at the grave or crematoriam or just in the funeral home. After the family will invite friends etc back to a Wake but not necessarily.

distracted by shiny objects said...

Best services I've been to are the ones where friends and family get up and give rememberences. My Auntie Em once drove to a church meeting in Chillicothe where she was supposed to have brought the coffee maker, but now couldn't find it...

still sitting on the roof of her car after the 20 minute drive. Hugs to all.

SkippyMom said...

Sounds like a nice day Rudee and the way it ought to be. I say let tongues wag, who cares. I think your FIL would've appreciated his friends hanging out and sharing stories. Death is stressful enough without the added downer of a wake.

Hope you have a quiet, relaxing week my friend.

Mimi said...

You are absolutely right to do it your way, Rudee. When my Mother died suddenly, we were rushed into everything, and I regret it to this day.
The sharing of stories is, to me, the great part of a funeral/wake. The dead person's body is gone, it's the spirit that lives on. And what better way to honour the spirit than to share the person's life, in a relaxed, homely environment.
good for you for thinking outside the box.

KnittySue said...

Your way is quickly becoming the modern day way...that is what my MIL wanted and that is what we did...YUP tongues wagged..especially my dads so he has his all planned and went to make sure that things didn't change at the funeral home (he's a vet) As for me I wish it had always been done this way..I wouldn't of been so traumatized when my precious grandma died...I don't think I breathed for a week and I was in my 30's. I want the same type of afternoon wake when my stay here is over.
Bravo!

sapphireblue said...

The expense of having the body laid out is astronomical. It's very creepy looking too. I think most people are choosing to go with direct creamation and choose their own ways of funeralizing.

bettyjf1 said...

HERE HERE!!! I'm loving your style Rudee!! I'm sorry for your family's loss.

Silliyak said...

You might find this interesting, and there's an overheard quote, unrelated, later in the column you might like.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/08/02/DDIU1KFUA2.DTL

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

HH and I have been planning to prearrange our celebration. We have not done it as of yet, but now I know exactly how I want it done. Thanks must change along the years and I would like them to change with our plans already made. Thanks for sharing.
QMM

Finding Pam said...

I think so many of us have experienced the loss of loved ones and the traditional funeral service. It was so very painful for all of us. I feel like you do.

Per my instructions, people will laugh at stories and let them eat a lot of cake. I want everyone to have a good memory.

Sandy said...

Sorry for his passing but glad he is out of pain.

We do it different too. My dad's gathering was at our place - with just family.

my brother who died in tombstone arizona - we held his in a room in the back of a bar he liked (Legends)...