children and funerals

I couldn’t begin to count how many funerals I have attended. My parents never replaced dead pets or shielded us from dying relatives. Our extended family has always been close. Sincerely close, gathering together as a group for all day eat-athons multiple times a year while seeing each other in smaller groups every other weekend and talking weekly on the phone. I can still picture my great-grandparents and all of their children as they once were. As a child, I hated the room in the funeral home filled with flowers and people standing around the open casket, chatting casually. It always felt like that should be the room where people cry. Outside of that room was better. That was a room where it felt comfortable to catch up with everyone’s lives. The best place to be in the funeral home was the kitchen. That was where you could play, eat and forget the purpose of the day.

I offered Tommy the option of staying at the hotel. He hasn’t been able to express his tangled feelings about this but I can see the confusion on his face. He chose to come to the funeral home and I let him deal with the day as open or closed off from the world as needed to be. He spent a little time sitting in the main room, quietly watching the casket and how people acted in that room. He spent the rest of the day wearing his headphones in the kitchen.

Sarah voluntarily missed a school dance to attend the funeral and help with the small children. She spent most of the day watching her youngest siblings and cousins. She was also frequently praised for her maturity, helpfulness, beauty and intelligence by her parents and grandparents.

Noah cried crocodile tears when he learned his great-grandmother was gone. His tender heart looked bruised whenever he was in the casket room. In the kitchen he relaxed slightly, but never completely.

Amy was a wild card. After she mourned the loss of our Golden Retriever, Lucy, for months, we weren’t sure how she would react to this death. Amy would climb in Great-Granny’s lap and give her sincere bear hugs during their weekly visits together. The day she died, we drove by the assisted living and Amy cheerily announced that we were at Great-Granny’s house. Amy looked in the casket carefully but calmly. She understood that her great-grandmother was somewhere else petting Lucy.

I had hoped Evan would play during the visitation and sleep during the service. Instead, he fell asleep on the way to the funeral home and took turns sleeping in my arms and then Doug’s. He woke up just in time to be loud during the service.

2 thoughts on “children and funerals

  1. My parents didn’t shield us from death either. I can still remember going to many, many funerals as a small child. I think children need to understand that death is part of life. I have a friend that, at the age of 21, the first funeral she went to was my mother’s.

    And “The best place to be in the funeral home was the kitchen. That was where you could play, eat and forget the purpose of the day.” I can vividly remember sitting in the kitchen of the funeral home where all my relatives had their funerals, and playing with Silly Putty with my cousins, or snacking on the veggie and fruit trays.

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