Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sympathy Saturday - An Old Timey Wake

Many years ago, when I was married to my first husband, I was exposed, for the first time, to a real old-fashioned wake.

When MawMaw Jones [aka: Della Mae Morris Jones: 1897-1977] passed away, her family had the funeral home prepare her body, and then bring it back to the house. The front living room was cleared out except for sofa and chairs. Extra chairs were brought in from the funeral home. The coffin was placed against the wall, and everyone in the immediate family sat up all night long with the body. Keeping a "Wake" over it.

This was a new, and unusual practice to me. I had been raised in the city, and we simply didn't know anyone who brought the body to the house! Much less stayed up all night with it! I found it a bit creepy actually, and prayed the whole night for morning and sunlight!

In our own family, one visits the funeral home the evening before the funeral, and has a "visitation" where family and friends gather. Mourners stand by the coffin and look in at the deceased. I am ever tickled, at times near the point of guffawing out loud, when someone leans over, stares at the deceased and says, "He/she sure does look good, don't ya think?"

Uhm... excuse me! They're dead! Do you really think dead looks good on them?

I'm one of those individuals that does not visit the funeral home when either [A] I didn't know the deceased, or [B] I didn't visit them when they were alive! I know so many people who will go to a visitation because the deceased was someone related to someone they knew. In other words, someone you are an acquaintance with [say a co-worker] has a relative who dies, the curious will either attend the visitation or the funeral. They will tell you "I'm here outta respect." We all know the truth... they are there because of curiosity, or morbidity!

If I either didn't know the deceased, or I wasn't friends or close family with them... I do not attend. Plain and simple.

I am also one of those individuals who do not send flowers to a funeral. I figure if I'm going to send flowers, I'll send them to the living. NOT to decorate someone's grave! More often than not, I'll cook a meal, or provide financial assistance if the survivors need it [I live in a rural area, where nearly everyone is financially strapped, so a monetary gift to the surviving family is the norm for our neck of the woods, as well as cooking a meal or dessert.]

Following the funeral in our area, family and relatives gather back at the deceased's house. And a huge meal is spread. Usually by friends, and church members.

When Grandma Bean passed away on 01 Jan. 1975, we all gathered back at my parent's house, as she'd lived with us for ten years.
My Great-Aunt Veda on 03 Jan 1975, followig Grandma's funeral.

Chairs were brought into the living room to make extra seating. A huge feast was spread in the dining room, and folks wandered in and out, fixing themselves a plate and taking it elsewhere to eat.

After an hour or so, those who were there out of curiosity began leaving one by one. Some attend just for the food! Some of those there "out of respect" began leaving about the 90-minute mark. While close family were there until the wee hours of the morning.

When Granny Dreher died in 1989, Mama shipped her body back to Indiana, so she could have her funeral there, and she could be placed to rest next to Grandpa. Her "visitation" began at 10 a.m. the day before the funeral, and lasted until 11 p.m. Talk about exhausting! And after her funeral the next day, family gathered at my Aunt Ethel's, and were there until the very late hours of the evening. I simply felt I could not go on, and had to drive back home the next day, an exhausting 8-hour drive!

My husband and I have decided that we want to be cremated, and forego a lengthy visitation and funeral. Should family wish to gather and say goodbye, let them share a toast of my favorite whiskey, and scatter my ashes to the four winds. Let them not weep as I join my ancestors, but instead, let them rejoice at my homecoming.

Now that's a send off to me!

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