Friday, February 18, 2011

Death, be not crowded

This blogging stuff is hard.

Last night I went to my very first wake in Rhode Island, after 8 years in the area. Now, in New York, where I'm from, this is how we do wakes/services:
Day 1: wake/visiting hours at the funeral home, usually about 2 sessions, afternoon and evening hours, like 1-4 and 6-9.
Day 2: the same. If there's not going to be a church funeral, usually the evening session includes some sort of service.
Day 3: if there is a church funeral, this is when it's held, usually in the morning.

Sometimes there might be one day of visiting hours at the funeral home. When a family friend passed last September, I think there was one day of visiting hours, in two sessions, and then the funeral the next morning. I could only attend the funeral due to my work schedule.

In the funeral home, everyone kind of mingles. Family is scattered about. When you get a chance, you respectfully go to the casket to pay your respects to the deceased. You sit in the chairs and pray or contemplate mortality. You reminisce.

In RI, apparently you get to the funeral home and stand in line for hours. OK, not hours. But you stand in a line, file past the casket, pausing to pray/pay respects, then you see the family and offer your condolences. And there were only 4 hours at the funeral home! The person I was there for (his wife is a colleague) was much beloved (and way too young, at 62--cancer sucks) was much beloved plus you have the lifetime Rhode Islander factor (meaning he knew everyone in the state), so the line was hugely long. Somehow that seems incredibly inefficient and weird to me.

Are funeral practices in your area similar to those in NY or RI?


Laura said...

I've seen both. The south tends to do the line thing. My best friend's father is a funeral home director and he hates the line thing. When my sister died, my very southern aunts were pissed at me because I didn't do the line thing. They said, "People want to say something to you." I said, "I'll go speak to whom I want and people can come find me."

My stepmother's funeral, just a year ago, was a little of both. My father, stepbrother and I intentionally spread ourselves out. So people naturally mingled, but a line naturally formed for my dad especially.

I think the line thing is hardest on the family who might feel obligated to wait for everyone to go through when they are exhausted and not really feeling up to socializing.

After my stepmother's funeral, we invited her and my dad's closest friends over and went through a couple of cases of wine. It was actually fun. That's what I want--a party!

Anita said...

In the midwest (IL) it is all about the line. Family members often take turns, so no one person stands there the whole time.

In recent years, amount of visitation time has depending strongly on the age of the deceased. When my great-grandmother passed, we only did graveside services, since she out outlived most of her friends.

But if the person was young, you might have two days of visitation - it all depends on what the family is emotionally capable of handling.