Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Funeral Today - Thoughts About Funerary Practices

Chickie is taking the day off to attend the funeral of Darwin, the husband of a good friend. Darwin had been battling cancer for more than two years. These kinds of life events are always difficult. Speaking from experience, memorials and funerals are highly emotional experiences shared with people who fall into one of three categories: family members and close friends, general friends, and almost complete strangers. No matter who the people attending are, the members of the immediate family have to be gracious toward each person, accept their expressions of sorrow, and somehow sit through all of the public rituals before finally being able to escape the public and return to their private grief.

Cemetery statuary is one of my loves. I'll
pepper this posting with statues from a variety
of sources. 

Funerals are tough; ceremonies culturally codified and placed firmly within the boundaries of civic or religious ceremony. Sometimes funerals encompass both aspects - visitations at a funeral home followed by religious ceremonies before a trip to a cemetery and the actual internment overseen by a religious practitioner. I know things are different in other countries, but I find funerals in the USA bot maudlin and difficult.

I love this faithful dog waiting for his master. Such
a sweet image. I just want to bring the dog home and
spoil him rotten. 

In the past the dead would be washed, wrapped into cloths pulled tightly, laid out in the kitchen or any larger room. People in the area who knew the deceased would gather around the body, and they would drink toasts to the deceased. If needed, a religious practitioner would say appropriate words. The friends and neighbors would pull together around the family of the deceased to give support in the form of physical support (helping on the farmstead, bringing over meals, caring for young children), or emotional support (a bottle or six of whiskey can go a long way).

This lovely statue is in Milan, Italy. I love the image. 

Now the job of laying out the dead takes place at designated funeral homes under the care of morticians - professionals dealing with the dead. The job of emotional support ... well, the bottles of whiskey are often self-purchased, not brought by neighbors. Funerals used to be an opportunity for communities to pull together and celebrate a life well lived. Now they are overseen by strangers and organized within routine and ritual. In some ways that is comforting but in others it is imprisoning - a cage against which we beat our wings.

This lovely angel is attributed to the Bronte
Cemetery, although I'm not exactly sure where
that is. It's a fabulous statue, though. 

I had the opportunity to meet Darwin once. He struck me as a joy-filled and considerate person who dearly loved his family and friends. He'll be missed, and I'll be thinking about him and his family as they say good-bye to him today.

Scaffold and tree burial was common among many of the tribes in
the USA. I'm a great fan of putting the body parts back into nature, and
my claustrophobia freaks me out when I think of coffins or urns. 

Have a good weekend. Only one more week (plus a little) until Halloween, so I guess I'd better pick up some candy for the college kids - LOL.

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