Thursday, October 14

"Of two things you can be certain; death and taxes" --Ben Franklin

I went to my first black visitation today.  I am not racist, nor do I think there should be a designation between "white" and "black," but it exists in society.  That fact is unavoidable.

Since there is a distinction, I went went to my first black visitation today.  My coworker's father passed away and several of my co-workers and I went to the visitation this morning.  I was one of about 7 or 8 white folks there, including my fellow coworkers.  All the visitations I've ever attended involved the family of the deceased standing by the altar/casket and greeting those who had come to pay their respects.  Today was a completely different experience.  People gradually came into the sanctuary, sat themselves while the casket was open by the altar, and then the reverend asked the congregation to stand as the family processed in.  They sat, by order of immediate family, in the middle portion of the sanctuary.  Then, extended family and friends created a line back out the sanctuary to come and pay their respects to the family.  This seems such a better plan than having the family stand by the casket.  They're grieving as it is, let them sit!

Another contrast to "white" visitations: there were many women, and I couldn't tell what relation they were to the family, that were wearing white dresses/suits with a black rosette and black, wrist-length gloves.  I've hardly seen anyone wear anything other than black or dark-colored clothes to a funeral or visitation, much less, white.

So while I was observing these cultural differences, it got me thinking about life and death, and how people choose to celebrate life and death.  It is guaranteed that you will die.  Many people think this is scary, and maybe it is.  I'm too busy living life to be worried about dying.  I know it will happen, but I'd rather be able to claim I lived a long, happy life.

This being said, I want my exit from this life to be celebrated the same way I live.  I've been to funerals and visitations with a dark, sad, mournful motif.  I understand their purpose, but I do not want that to be the way I'm remembered.  For starters, I'm going to be cremated.  If I weren't, though, I wouldn't have an open casket funeral.  I don't think embalmed bodies look like their previous occupant.  They look....embalmed?  Embalmed bodies look like figures out of a wax museum, and I don't want my family and friends to remember me that way.  I want them to remember me being full of life and energy.  

Since I'll be cremated, there won't be a need for a funeral service.  I want my ashes to be scattered, preferably somewhere beautiful or that holds historical significance in my heart.  Afterward, all my close friends and family can gather, drink a few kegs of my favorite beer, eat some of my favorite foods and exchange stories about my life: both the good and the bad.  I don't want people to think about how sad they are that I'm no longer in their life; I want them to think about how happy their lives are/were because I was in their life. 

Now, I was raised in a church and I believe many things about religion, but I'm a firm believer that the Bible is not something that should be followed verbatim.  At lunch today, my coworker and I were talking about funerals.  She made the comment that 'she wasn't sure what the Bible says about funerals, but she wasn't going to do it such and such way.'  Well, since I don't follow the Bible verbatim, even if it said to do something a certain way, it doesn't mean it's black and white and must be done precisely one way.  So this comment got me to thinking and wondering what funeral practices have been through history in the thousands of different cultures and societies that have existed. 

Then I got to thinking, "gee, I wish I could go back and study Anthropology with a focus on funeral practices."  I mean, not really because that'd be a lot of schooling, and if I were to get a masters in something it wouldn't be in societies' funeral practices, but it would still be neat to take a couple classes.  It's just interesting to think how different societies who had never communicated with each other could have precisely the same practices or radically different practices.

If this post was depressing, I apologize.  I just think thoughts about the afterlife and the grieving process of those left behind is intriguing.

I'll try to have a more uplifting post tomorrow.


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