Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Malika, Jun 20, 2012.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    (A snappy title, I know).
    Someone in the village died today and a lady I am friendly with here told me that she and her family were going to visit the body, in his house, this evening. She said it was the local custom and had been for generations. She seemed surprised when I told her that in Britain, death is hidden away... decades ago we had this practise of "visiting" the dead person, but you would not find it anywhere in England now, I don't think. I find it healthy that death should be looked at, stared right in the face as it were... death as part of life.
    I think Americans are like the British with this, no? (Which reminds me of my wonderful neighbour who today said to me with a totally straight face that England was next to America!! Extraordinary ignorance...) I think death is also the great taboo with you, is that fair to say?
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Can't speak for my southern neighbors, but... Canada is such a multi-cultural society that how death is dealt with really depends on your culture. Some Canadians "hide" it away, others have elaborate rituals, etc. It really varies. For my family, it's "middle of the road"... it is serious, and yet part of life, not to be hidden away, but to be acknowledged and experienced, because we all will walk that road.
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Here, we usually have a visitation, where people go and stare at the body before it is interred or cremated. Always gives me the creeps. I'd rather remember them as they were in life, Know what I mean??

    Then again, some people require the knowledge that so-and-so is truly dead, for closure...
  4. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Not to sound crass, lol, but more and more people are opting for cremation with-o the standard services. A "get together" in memory of the deceased is usually upbeat and pleasant. I am leaning that way in my old age but haven't put it in writing yet. Strange as it sounds......I haven't "spit out the question" to husband yet. Yeah, I know it is past time to find out but there is always that little hesitation when it comes to death. DDD
  5. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    That's interesting, Step - so it is like the French custom. Is that just in certain parts of the States?
    To state the obvious, DDD, better to seize the moment... This man who died today was apparently walking around hale and hearty (apparently) just yesterday. And I should use that thought to galvanize myself into going to the lawyer to write the will and testament that I know I must...
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012
  6. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    This was done with father in law, mother in law, and husband........and I hope myself. But depending on when I should extended family would not be at all pleased with that choice. A memorial celebrated the person and their life. It in my opinion it does not have to be with tears and sadness. I've told my kids I want them to throw one hellova party when I'm gone, and I've warned I might decide to haunt them should they not do so. lol

    Most here do the visitation, service, then burial. Again, though, there are cultures that deviate and have their own beliefs.
  7. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    Here the custom is to have "visitation" with the family at the funeral home a day or so after the death, usually a few hours in the afternoon and a few hours in the evening. Usually the visiting hours are more casual and some people may stop by on their way home from work, etc. to visit with the family and offer their support and sympathy to the family. The funeral service is usually the following day. Sometimes it's at the family's church but here it's usually at the funeral home and sometimes there's an hour or so of visitation before the actual funeral service begins. People attending the funeral service usually dress more formally, like what you would wear to church. If the person is going to be buried, there are short additional services at the grave site but not everyone attending the funeral goes to the actual burial. I know that when each of my parents died, it was a great comfort to have caring friends and family there offering their support and love.

    When my cousins husband died, he had made arrangements for his body to be donated to a state university medical school so there was no traditional funeral service. But about three weeks after his death, they had a big memorial service for him at their church with a luncheon afterwards. Hundreds of people showed up - relatives, friends, former co-workers, and neighbors. He was quite a character and the luncheon quickly turned in to everyone telling their favorite stories of things he had done and the stunts he had pulled and people laughing themselves silly! He would have loved it!
  8. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    No, it's all over the US, so far as I know. Been to funerals in Texas, New Mexico and Ohio, and I've heard about them elsewhere.

    I just don't think a waxy, made-up, perfectly composed body is how I want to remember ANYONE.
  9. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    It's custom here in the states to go visit the dead body (called visitation) in a funeral home after the body has been embalmed. It's really a time for friends and family to express consolation to the family. However in the olden days, the days when my parents were young, it was custom to have the body viewing in the home. When my mother passed away in 1996 my dad wanted to have her laid out in their house and I was very much against it. He wasn't happy about it but finally agreed to a funeral home showing.

    I personally like the Jewish custom of having the casket closed and the burial asap, usually the next day, and then have people visit with the family in their home the next week to express condolences.

  10. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I'm Jewish and we have immediate funerals and a shiva period as outlined by Nancy. Ironically, Muslim funerals are the closest to Jewish that I have heard of.

    My H is Catholic so I have attended many wakes or visitations. When my oldest son was about 8, he loudly asked why they were called wakes when the person was clearly NOT awake. When easy child was 3, we went to a wake. I was nursing the baby in the back when I saw easy child heading up to the casket. I do not ever approach the casket, it's just not a Jewish thing to do. Anyway, my son climbed up and in his best outside voice yelled "How can Mr. X sleep when it's so noisy here?" Another - 2 Jewish friends and I went to the wake of a Catholic co-worker's dad. The mom said to us: "Doesn't (her son) look just like his dad?" to which my one friend whispered "Yes, except that (friend) is breathing!" Last one - the aunt of one of H's friends was dying of lung cancer and was in an oxygen tent. She could not stop smoking; this was when smoking was still allowed in hospitals. Anyway, the oxygen tent blew up and she died. At the wake, her sister-in-law remarked to a cousin: "Don't you think she looks great?" to which the cousin said: "You're right, she's never looked better."

    Sorry for my gallows humor.
  11. cubsgirl

    cubsgirl Well-Known Member

    I just went to a funeral on Monday. As others have said, there was visitation at the funeral home on Sunday, and visitation at the Church hosting the funeral one hour before the service. The burial was scheduled for Tuesday. The man had died last Wednesday.
  12. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Ah, yes, perhaps that is the difference. In the States, the body is embalmed and the visitation takes place in a funeral home. Do you know Jessica Mitford's "The American Way of Death" in the States? Or Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One"? Both satires about the expense of funerals in America and the manipulation of the funeral business. Both these are old books, written in the 1940s and 1960s, so I don't know how things stand now.
  13. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Do you know why it's called a "wake"?
  14. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    Our circa 1820 house in Maine has a North parlor and a South one. I always got goose bumps in the North parlor. An old Mainer died a few years ago and asked for a traditional viewing in an open pine casket in his parlor. All his friends were invited and he was not embalmed. That was unusual enough to cause people to talk.

    I saw the movie The Loved One when I was 15. It took me a while to understand it.

    One of my great aunts in France was so terrified of death that she slept in a coffin, or so they say. I know Sarah Bernhardt traveled with a coffin, maybe it was just a family legend.

    I rather wish they would put me out in the garden so I could feed the birds. Life goes on.
  15. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    That is interesting 3S.

    Although I admit I'm sitting here trying to figure out why on earth if you're so afraid of death you'd want to sleep in a coffin...........???

    I do know that the whole funeral parlor thing is a fairly "modern" concept. My grandmother's grandparents were viewed at home after preparation by the female family members. I'm not certain but her parents might have been as well.
  16. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I've already made it clear to my family that they are to cremate me ASAP, then hold the biggest party they can manage, and then toss my ashes somewhere - I don't care where - just don't flush 'em, they'll clog the toilet.
  17. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I'm in favour of traditional funerals. In my culture stoicism is valued and showing too much emotion is considered flimsy. Traditional funerals at least give some place and permission to show you are grieving (even though especially men are not really expected to cry even in them.) It is a trend also here, that many people hope more upbeat memorial for themselves, to skip traditional gloomy hymns (and when we Lutherans go for gloomy hymns you can bet they are indeed gloomy, even our most upbeat hymns tend to be in minor) etc. And while I can see a point, it in some ways takes away from those who are grieving. Those familiar, safe customs can also help grieving people to handle the matter.

    We also have a trend that is going to other direction, back to older customs, when death was not hidden away. More and more people want to prepare the body themselves, sit with the deceased after death in hospital and even mourners filling a grave with shovel (and not just the symbolic way but really) is coming more popular again.
  18. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I read both books years ago. I don't think they impacted the changes in the industry. I think just the basic economics of society changed my family this was big........the Church changed it's position on cremation. DDD
  19. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Ditto. I hate going to wakes and such. Life is to be celebrated, in my humble opinion, and death is a natural part of life.

    I'm sure every culture has its own traditions but I think more and more people are making their own rules on how to deal with the death of a loved one and most I've attended treat it as a sort of celebratory send off. Except, of course, in the case of a person who has passed away too young or tragically.
  20. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I agree, we are more like the British.
    But we don't always hide it away. We just clean it up and make it pretty, so to speak ... a nice casket, makeup, nice clothes ...
    My dad had lost too much weight so we had a closed casket.
    We played old home movies and posted lots of pictures on boards at the wake.
    I think they still sit with-the bodies in Mexico, too.
    Personally, I'd rather visit when people are still alive ...