Saturday, 16 February 2013

More Wisdom From The Funeral Director's Wife

    Here is the part of this blog where I feel like I need to put a disclaimer.  The opinions of this blog are those expressly of myself.  I write this coming from personal experience as both a person who was horrified of death and chose to pretend it did not exist, and then someone who has opened her eyes, not from desire, but necessity.  If you are someone who is squeamish about death, then you should stop reading and come back tomorrow.

    My husband is a funeral director.  On a daily basis he councils families to consider having a funeral for their loved one.  He does this not to make money for his company, but because he wants them to know all of their options and to have no regrets.  People are so afraid of death and funerals that I think often they rush themselves.  This is your opportunity to seek comfort from your family, friends and community.  This may sound trivial, but it is a great comfort to be, well comforted.
    So often I hear people say that they want straight cremation, no funeral, nothing.  It happens all the time at Christopher's work.  I think that people think that by doing this, they are saving their loved ones trouble and expense.  They are saving their loved ones physical trouble and they are saving money.  But they are also tying their loved ones hands.  Their loved ones might want to have a funeral or a memorial, but they want to honour their loved one's final wishes.  The thing that everyone needs to remember is that death is no longer about that person who has died, it has become about how do their family members learn to live without them.  How can their family members let go.
    When Gabe died we took almost a week to plan his funeral.  We wanted his funeral to celebrate his life.  We dressed him not in a suit, but in his Sponge Bob hockey jersey.  We put him in his comfy track pants and  Sponge Bob slippers, because that was him.  At his funeral we showed a slide show of pictures of him.  These were not honorable, respectful pictures, they were pictures of him.  There were pictures of him and I in a bathtub way to full of bubbles.  There were pictures of him being him.  For the music, we chose no stuffy religious hymns  we played the theme to Sponge Bob Square Pants, and we encouraged everyone there to sing along.  We played "Baby Mine" because that was the song that I sang to him every single night of his life, even in the womb.  Many may have been appalled by our choices.  It was a funeral to honour the life of a 9 year old boy.  It was a way for Christopher and I to channel the grief that nearly drowned us.  In those first few horrible days we had busy work. Gabriel's funeral was what we could do to show everyone who he was and how much we adored him.  It gave us comfort.  In a time of grief you need all of the comfort that you can get.
    A funeral / memorial does not give closure in the sense that it heals the wounds and takes away the pain.  It gives closure in the fact that it allows you to honour that person that was important enough in your life that you grieve for them.  It allows you to do one last thing "for" them.  It allows you to show everyone a side to your loved one that they may never have known about.  It allows you to do busy work while you work through your shock.
    I have discussed this topic before, and there is a good chance that I will discuss it again.
Funerals are a terrible expense, in my opinion they cost so much more than they should (don't tell this to my husband's boss).  Weddings are also a terrible expense, and in my opinion they cost so much more than they should, and yet no one complains about those.  A wedding is also just one day.  A wedding is a celebration.  You celebrate your new life together.  A funeral / memorial is a celebration too, just not as happy.  A funeral celebrates that you were blessed enough to have that person in your life.  You were blessed enough to know them, and that they were blessed enough for you to mourn them.
   I know that this may be coming across as preachy.  That is not my intention.  My intention is to make you think.  Long ago when I was horrified of death, and so grossed out by my husband's profession I would tell Christopher "If I die, I don't want anything done.  Just pick a cardboard box, and toss it in a hole.  Then all that money you saved, buy me a really fancy headstone.  I want people to walk past that head stone and say "Man someone loved her!"  That was my thinking prior to Gabe's death.  Sadly it was Gabe's death that made me realize what a wonderful service my husband performs.  It took the death of my child to realize the comfort my husband can give.  I have changed my thinking regarding funerals.  My plan is to leave it to my husband / kids to honour me in a way that will bring them comfort.  It does not matter if it's not the way that I would want it done, I won't be there to fret about it.
    My advice, and you all know that it was coming, is don't demand what "your" funeral should look like.  By all means if you would like to lighten your families load, then prepay a funeral.  Plan what you would like, but consult your family and allow them to have some say.  By pre-paying you save your family that worry, and allow them to concentrate on not worrying about how they can possibly afford to honour you.  They can concentrate on what you wanted, mixed with what gives them comfort.  Discuss your wishes with your family, even though it's awkward, but let them have an opinion.  If you talk about it, then they will know what you would like, but by being open with them, you give them permission to honour you in their own way too.

There you have it, take it or leave it (I'm crossing my fingers that you will take it rather than leave it).

1 comment:

  1. I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing.

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