the funeral stiff
My husband recently passed away after suffering a lengthy illness that had necessitated his moving to a nursing home some months ago. He and I had been quite close with our neighbors in the sub-complex where we lived (I still reside there). They are a couple with whom we have frequently socialized over the years, who know our extended family and friends very well, and who regularly visited my husband in the home after he moved there. The wake and funeral were last weekend and I expected I would see our friends at one or both of the services. While they did bring flowers and offer their condolences to me in person, the wife explained to me that they would not be attending either the wake or the funeral because her husband doesn’t “do funerals.”
I was hurt by the fact that they would not be attending, but now I’m working on a different problem. Why would she SAY that to me? Aren’t there some times when a fabrication or false excuse is preferable to the truth? Personally, I would have appreciated a well-intentioned lie in this case. Her explanation, while honest, left me stunned, speechless, and on the edge of tears. Now I am angry at both of them AND stuck next door to them, newly widowed, at a time I could really use my friends.
—Truth and Consequences
The Piano Man says: First, and foremost, I’m very sorry for your loss. That, having been said, the funeral and the wake are not for or about you. The barbaric practice of displaying a dead body that hasn’t been “plasticized” is beyond my ken, but I’m pretty sure the wake was designed to allow acquaintances to “see” the deceased one last time and to provide a little personal “closure” for said individuals. While it is certainly customary to provide a kind word or condolence upon the deceased’s close family and spouse, the couple you refer to DID just that, just not in a formal public setting. The reason the funeral director stuffs, paints, and poses the deceased for display is so everyone in attendance might remember the dead as close as possible to their memories of the living being they may, or may not, have loved or enjoyed in Life. Perhaps your friends prefer to remember your husband as they recall him on the frequent LIFETIME visits they shared with your husband, that you mentioned. The funeral is another thing altogether! It’s a religious ritual to put to “rest” the soul of the dearly departed. Unnecessary, unless those wishing to attend a) missed the wake, or b) adhere very closely to the belief system shared by the deceased or c) are, in fact, one of those close relatives mentioned earlier. I’m with your friend’s husband. I don’t “do” funerals unless I’m an a,b, or c. I don’t even plan to attend my own.
Again, very sorry for your loss.
Sigmund Fraud says: Funerals are tough for a lot of people. Of all life’s events, they’re way down at the bottom of the list—far removed from birthdays and weddings—somewhere down below getting a root canal. I once had a client who was convinced he’d developed a permanent stutter as a result of being forced to attend the funeral of a dear relative when he was just a small boy. We came to discover that the phenomenon was rooted in the fact that he was literally speechless at the event. And all the words spoken by the priest and other relatives could do nothing to restore life to his loved one. He came to see words themselves as useless, and was ashamed to speak them. After lengthy therapy, I am proud to say he went on to a successful career as an auctioneer.
You are going through a very personal grief period—as are your neighbors, if to a lesser degree. I don’t really think you’d have appreciated a lie. Remember, they did more than a lot of people for your husband while he was alive. This one sounds like a job for the healing hands of time. Don’t waste it looking for little things that tick you off.
Ruthless says: Isn’t one of the only bright sides to getting old that you can decide to do what you want and not do what you don’t want? I wish I could say I didn’t “do” funerals. That’d go over real well.
So I look forward to the day when I can just do or not do whatever I want. But I suppose that’s also the day when I won ‘t have many friends. Maybe this is why those certain people of a certain age have come to be referred to as “curmudgeonly.”
A term of endearment, I’m sure.
If I were you I’d just promise myself that I will never ever attend my neighbors’ funeral. Continue to socialize, inviting them over frequently for drinks and dinner. Provide lots of cholesterol and high proof alcohol for them, but stick to Ensure Plus yourself. This way you ensure you live long enough to not go to either of their funerals.
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