December 30th, 2003

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11:34 pm - on rituals for the deceased and remarks regarding them...
so there are odd things that I noticed over the last week regarding people's mourning behavior.

First of all, I think its worth pointing out that I don't go to funerals. This is primarily due to my bipolarism. Funerals are depressing and morbid and the very concept makes me sad, and I don't need it. So I choose not to go. The only thing that I can see coming out of going to a funerals is closure, and I am perfectly capable of getting that on my own without attending. Its simple really. Its not like breaking up with someone. There you need closure. There you need to know that the relationship is over. When someone dies. Well, its pretty much over. No matter what, they won't be coming back. So sooner or later, you pretty much have to deal with it. Or you don't, but it doesn't matter.

Anyway, I don't get funerals anyway. It just seems to be kind of a pointless ritual. I understand the religious significance, but I don't understand the need for having the ceremony in the presence of the body. And the wake is even more ludicrous. I mean, at least with the funeral, there is a service, there is a point, but why do people feel the need to congregate around the body the day before? It really just seems kind of sick if you ask me.

Really, to me it seems that grief is something that people are best equipped to deal with on their own. Two people's relationship with a loved one is never the same, so I think that each survivor needs to come to grips with the departure of the deceased in his own way.

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite grateful to everyone who has wished me well or expressed their sympathies with my grandfather's death. I just find some of the rituals a little odd.

So anyway, I skipped the funeral. That's what I do. I skip funerals and I spend the time thinking of the person in my own way on my own terms.

So there's also the issue of things people say that's kind of weird. People say lots of stupid things in regards to funerals and such. These are silly things that I have heard in the last week that just stuck in my mind. The first several are all related to my not going....

Number ten: "Hey, at the funeral, do you want to read my eulogy about your grandfather to the congregation..." Uhh, no, I'm not going... I don't go to funerals... and if I were going, I'd read my own eulogy... you know, what with them being my memories and all.

Number nine: "What do you mean you're not going to the funeral? Why? You do know he was your grandfather, right?" Umm, no, somehow I had managed to forget that in the two fucking minutes since someone else last asked me that question. I frequently forget who my relatives are.

Number eight: "Well, what if your mom died? Would you skip that funeral too?" Yes, that's sorta part of the whole I never go to funerals thing. See, making an exception would kinda cut into that whole never thing.

Number seven: "Well, don't you want people to come to your funeral?" Ummm, no frankly I don't give a damn. See, I'll be dead and won't care much who is and isn't there. Hell, if I can figure out a way for my body to not be there, I'll leave instructions in my will... just to keep my streak alive.

Number six: "But it leaves a bad impression. People will think you didn't care about your grandfather." Uhhh, honestly, do I come across as the kind of person who gives a damn what people think?

And then there are silly things that people say that have absolutely nothing to do with my own little hangup...

Number five: "It was a lovely service... your cousins told stories about their memories of your grandfather from when they were kids." That's funny, I have memories of my grandfather from like a week ago. Maybe this is another reason I don't go to funerals. I don't like listening to people carry on about someone like they were his best friend in death when they couldn't be bothered to spend 15 minutes on a phone call with him when he was alive... oh look... I must still be a little bitter... *sigh*

Number four: "This has actually been a pretty good christmas... ummm... you know, other than the circumstances surrounding it." Ok, this one is you mom... and I know what you meant by it... but it was silly, and it made me laugh at the time, so that's a good thing.

Number three: "You're leaving? You're driving back to Pittsburgh? Oh just wait! You can't go without saying hello and goodbye to cousin Terry. Who knows when you'll see him again. He's right over there, let me go get him..." Ummm, who in the blue hell is cousin Terry, and who the hell are you for that matter?

Number two: "How are you doing?" Ok, to be fair, I actually really do appreciate people asking this. Mostly because I know its out of genuine concern. But every time I hear it (which has been like a million over the last 8 days) its really hard to not answer "oh, I'm just swell! The man who raised me just died of cancer, how the fuck do you think I'm doing?" I know... I know... I guess its just weird that the traditional thing to say to people is "How are you doing?" When really, what you mean is basically "I'm sorry for your loss. How can I help?" It really didn't bother me much during the first day or two, but now that I've had a week to get used to things, I just find it really odd. Good natured. But odd.

and the number one silly thing people say that I don't understand, and I heard this at least 3 times after the wake: "They sure had old Alonzo looking good, didn't they? Didn't he look great?" Umm, no he didn't... he looked dead.

Anyway, its now been eight days. And its time to start moving on. The only hard thing I really have left to do, is call my grandmother next Sunday. Its going to be the first time I've made my weekly phone call to her and not been able to talk to him, and that's going to be incredibly weird and hard. But other than that, I'm pretty ready to move on with my life I guess.

So anyway... someone amuse me... hey better yet... someone find me a job...

Current Mood: [mood icon] sore

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

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From: monkey587 Date: December 30th, 2003 - 09:09 pm (Link)
I totally agree about the not going to funerals thing, for pretty much the same reason. I have been to two, maybe three... I can't remember. They were the most uncomfortable experiences of my life, and I didn't feel like they made any sense to me. I don't wan to go to any more.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: December 31st, 2003 - 07:17 am (Link)
yep... sounds like a good enough reason to avoid them to me.
[User Picture]From: jacquez Date: December 30th, 2003 - 09:23 pm (Link)
On a note of weird:

At my Grandfather Valentine's funeral, he had been heavily makeup'd. He was orange. It disturbed the *hell* out of me. I hate funerals, but I always end up going. :/
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: December 31st, 2003 - 07:16 am (Link)
Jerry "The King" Lawler was telling me about Moondog Spot's funeral a couple weeks ago... remind me to tell you about that some time.
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: December 30th, 2003 - 09:59 pm (Link)
I'm reading the list thinking, okay, okay, but I bet he doesn't have the joke my high school friend and I always made about funerals...damn, so close. There it was at number one. "He looks just like himself." Man, I hope when I'm dead, I don't look just like myself. I hope I look like Soleil Moon Frye.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: December 31st, 2003 - 07:02 am (Link)
hey not a bad choice... assuming you mean what she looks like today, and not what she looked like as Punky Brewster... she's pretty hot these days...
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: December 31st, 2003 - 10:46 am (Link)
Actually, either would do, just so long as I don't look like myself. If I'm going to look like the current Soleil, I'd really rather do that while I'm alive.

I hope this at least amused you. ;)
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 30th, 2003 - 11:01 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: December 31st, 2003 - 07:04 am (Link)
oh, he definitely would have approved from what i heard. My grandfather always went tom funerals... and I'm told my cousin (who was the presiding minister) did his best to keep the occasion lively and such, and the kind of thing that my grampa would have enjoyed. I just don't get their need... I know that other people do.
[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: December 31st, 2003 - 07:39 am (Link)
I think opened coffins are an American thing

It varies. I've never been to an open casket funeral (or a viewing). Sometimes it's driven by what particular random church denomination you are...
[User Picture]From: sk4p Date: December 31st, 2003 - 06:08 am (Link)
I go to funerals but I do not go to viewings anymore. (So I only go if the casket is closed or already interred.) Corpses creep me the hell out, for a number of reasons. Mostly because they always look radically different (in my eyes) than the living person did.

On the other hand, I agree with you that closure must come, but I figure a funeral can help it come a little bit sooner. Although for me, reading the obituary in the paper and then going to the gravesite a week later does about as well, so ...
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: December 31st, 2003 - 07:19 am (Link)
yeah, don't get me wrong... I'm not saying that people shouldn't have funerals if they need them. It just annoyed me that people try to pressure me into going (no matter how good their intentions are). I don't need them, and more over, they hurt me, not help me... so I'll just stay out of it, thankyouverymuch...
[User Picture]From: jetgrrl01 Date: December 31st, 2003 - 06:11 am (Link)
It's easy to get out of your own funeral. Randy was cremated in the next day or two after he died. The memorial service/funeral was held a couple days later (with no body or ashes anywhere in sight). That's where all the talking was done, remembering, consoling the family, and then people went home. Later the close family spread his ashes around without the extra hundreds of people.

And the translation of "how are you doing?" is really more "are you about to break down and lose it and is there anything I can do?" so the normal answer of "I'm doing okay" translates to, "I'm not about to jump off a cliff or anything, but thanks for asking."

[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: December 31st, 2003 - 07:07 am (Link)
really? weird... aren't the ashes usually present at funerals in lieu of a body?

Actually, I am of the opinion that upon my death, it should be the decision of my wife/children what to do with my body and not left up to me. If they feel the need to have a funeral, scatter my ashes, bury me in a location they can visit or stuff me and hang me above the fireplace, then that's all fine with me. Yes it was my body, but I won't be using it anymore.
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: December 31st, 2003 - 10:55 am (Link)
I agree...funerals are for the living. Both of my mother's parents died over a decade ago. Being young, I went to the funerals. Neither one had an open casket. I actually wanted to see my grandfather's body, as I hadn't seen him in a few months. (They lived nearby and we saw them all the time.) But it was not an open casket and that was probably for the best.

Jewish funerals have some cool rituals surrounding them. The surviving children/spouse/parent is supposed to rend their clothing in grief. The modern representation is a black ribbon that is placed on the mourner and torn. There is also a period of mourning called sitting shiva which lasts 8 days. During that time visitors come and no work is done (cooking, cleaning and so forth are all left to visitors). At the end of the time, the mourners go on with life. Each year, on the anniversary of the death, a candle is burned to commemorate the deceased. I like the fact that the period of mourning is finite, as well as being complete - grieve deeply, and then move on.
[User Picture]From: papertygre Date: December 31st, 2003 - 09:32 am (Link)
Really, to me it seems that grief is something that people are best equipped to deal with on their own. Two people's relationship with a loved one is never the same, so I think that each survivor needs to come to grips with the departure of the deceased in his own way.

I think you're right. But I think I understand why people use the ritual.

Human psychology seems to be such that if a human can't look around and see other people observing the exact same thing, then maybe it didn't really happen. Without something like a marriage, then it might be considered an ongoing coincidence that two people are living together. Without a coming-of-age ritual, a child doesn't psychologically break with the past in both his own eyes and those of the people who know him. And without a funeral, to a certain way of looking at it the deceased might have just gone on vacation, and then by the time you notice he hasn't come back, the memory has just degraded, and fades off, until it's just a vague and poignant smudge of something lost. I think being with others at a meeting specifically intended to commemorate a death also helps reinforce connections to replace the one that's gone. And as a well-known principle, concentrated events of emotional intensity are remembered far better than a drawn out solitary process. And remembering is key.

I'm thinking of my paternal grandmother as I write this. I haven't sat and really thought about her since she died about two years ago. She was past ninety and she lived with my family, so was clear of mind and not alone right up until her heart finally gave out. I will always miss her and remember the things she did for me and my parents and siblings. And the things she liked to do and that made her happy in her quiet, patient life. "Minneu, minneu" she called my cat in French. She wrote letters. She played piano at the old folks' home, even long after her husband had died from Alzheimer's and no longer lived there.

These were things that I knew about her and cherished. But I didn't know how others felt about her. My mom got up and delivered the most beautiful eulogy I have ever heard. She said, "Bertha was love. Everything she did was motivated by how much she cared for others. She inspired me. And she will always be with me." I would never have missed hearing that for the world.

I'm crying now as I write this. I think I cried at the funeral, but it was distant. It was too stark, too foreign, too dreary, despite the fancy, cream-colored parlor and the sympathetic doormen in sunglasses and black suits. It didn't mean anything then. It wasn't about her, it was about fulfilling an expectation. I wasn't glad I went then, I just let the tide carry me. But I'm glad now because I was there for the other people who were there who were also grieving. It was those people who needed it. And I found out how much grandma meant to the people close to me. I knew that she did, but it's not like I discussed it with them while she was alive: "How do you feel about Grandma? Is she a nice person, or what?" Well, duh. But when she's gone, it's not obvious anymore.

Yes - it's a macabre and maybe even ugly thing to sit around a dead body and peer at each other and say "this was a good person, wasn't it?" But you do it for yourself. Because it also helps you realize that those other people you are there with, care about each other. They would do this uncomfortable ritual for you, too. And they would remember you. As you would them.

They would complete each others' picture of you. And they would say nice things. And they would pool their pain to help burn it into indelible memory. Like a wax seal on an envelope full of beautiful writings.
From: bettybleu Date: January 1st, 2004 - 11:24 am (Link)


ok the oddest thing i have ever heard at a funeral was for my best friend's brother..(i went to help her get through it all...i love her that much)but anywho i was waiting in line to view the body and give condolences to the rest of the family and the widow when my gf's mom(who hasn't seen me in 4 1/2 years) yells oh my god you got your boobs done they look fantastic....and trys to sort of feel them. the only thing i could think of to say to that was i am so sorry for your loss....also my gf told me my face was flaming red....but i guess on the whole it made the widow smile(the first smile in 4 days) so i guess that was good i could amuse people with my boobs. see now aren't boobs a wonderful thing.

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