Rambling Over Coffee: Viewings and Funeral Services are For the Living That Need that Closure - Not the Dead

I don't often read Dear Abby or other 'dear' anyone in the morning news but if I happen to see a link to it while I'm reading other news, I'll click.  This one is my "rambling over morning coffee" post for today.  First, I'll let you read it.

DEAR ABBY: I recently went to a funeral viewing for a friend’s adult child whom I had never met. After entering the funeral home, I saw a computer-generated sign stating, “Please understand that we (mom, dad, brother and daughter) just couldn’t be here.”

Abby, I wasn’t there to see the deceased; I was there to express my sympathy to the family. Why bother to have a viewing? All I wanted to say was how sorry I am for their loss. — KAREN IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR KAREN: Please have a little less judgment and a little more compassion. Remember that not everyone deals with death in the same way.

The viewing was for family members, friends and acquaintances of the deceased who COULD bear to be there. You can still express your sympathy to the grieving family by writing them a condolence letter. 

We had a little different but somewhat similar issue just come up 2 weeks ago in our family.

My Godmother/Aunt just passed away this month, after a lengthy battle with cancer.  Everyone has known the time was near; and has known and has been somewhat expecting it, as she was very, very near death last October ( a year ago) and had a very odd but wonderful 'bounce back' that gave her another year with family before she passed this month.

She lives 2000 miles from all her extended family (brothers, sisters, cousins, etc.) and although her family (husband & adult children) made phone calls to everyone letting them know a day or two ahead of time that she would be passing (no longer eating or drinking, not waking from sleep) they opted for text messages when she finally passed away quietly, in her sleep, in her home.

They (the immediate family; husband, adult children) followed my Aunt's directive and wishes that immediately after being declared dead, she was to be transported to the funeral home where she would be cremated.  She wished no viewing, no memorials and no services.


And apparently, this upset her siblings.  (All aged 60 - 80).

My Dad called to let me know my Aunt had passed and he was rather upset.  He and his sisters are all upset that there is no viewing, service or funeral to attend.  I told Dad I thought that was fine.... that's how me and my husband want it as well!  He was very upset and said the sibling consensus (gossip among themselves) is that it's fine if the family didn't want to hold it for them, but what about everyone else?  They wanted there to be a service.

And so, this morning over morning coffee, I ponder.

I can see both sides.

Funeral services are not for the dead.
They are for the living.

Some people need that closure in order to come to terms with the death of a family member or friend.
I understand my Aunts siblings would have wanted a viewing, memorial service and full church funeral.
Not only because it's what they wanted, but it's what they have come to expect as 'normal'.  A cultural thing. A part of their religion as well.  As a matter of fact, the entire process has become very 'cookie cutter'.  I suspect part of the anger and hurt feelings they are having is because they expected the same steps to be taken they all have come to expect.  You do 1. 2. 3. and 4. in that order.  Really, the entire schedule is fairly cookie-cutter except the name of the deceased changes and perhaps the color of the flowers and casket. 

My Aunt and her husband and her adult children spoke at length about what she wanted.  They followed her wishes.

My father and his siblings side of it is that if they didn't need a funeral service for themselves, that's fine, but what about all her siblings and other relatives.  They should have had one for them.

Uhhh.  Hmmm.
See?  Gray area.

So the Dear Abby column that day made me think of my own family's situation.

HAD THEY OPTED TO HAVE A SERVICE, my Uncle and my cousins would not have been there.  Heck, my Aunts body wouldn't have been there either.  It would have been some sort of memorial service for everyone else.  And I'm sure that like the person who wrote Dear Abby, there would be people upset and complaining and gossiping that her own family wasn't even there!

But they weren't there because the service wasn't for THEM.  It was for those who needed it.  Needed that closure. That goodbye.

My last thought to ponder about this topic over my morning coffee is that my Aunt and her family in part, probably opted for these decisions because it's been a year long "goodbye" process already.  She literally was at deaths door last October 2015. The calls were made.  Hospice was at the home.  When she made a recovery of sorts, it gave everyone an entire year to come to terms with her eventual passing that was inevitable.  Had she passed quickly, without warning, I suspect there might have been a large gathering and services of some sort maybe. 

In the end, this is what she and her family wanted.
And extended family and friends need to respect their wishes.

And so... Dear Abby reader, I don't often agree with Abby but I do on this one.

The viewing was for family members, friends and acquaintances of the deceased who wished to, or 'needed' to be there in their own.  And judgement upon the deceased family is unwarranted.  This goodbye viewing wasn't for them... it wasn't for the deceased... it was for those who wanted to be there, or needed to be there.

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