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.