Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My first funeral and a chance to say goodbye

Yesterday was the perfect day for a funeral. With the sun shining and the cool breezes zipping through the trees, saying goodbye was a blessing. One of our friends lost his father and we went to the funeral yesterday to pay our respects. As expected, I couldn't help contrast the experience with funerals I have attended in the US. I imagine that everyone does that. As another first, the funeral was a Greek Orthodox one, so it was very different from our Episcopal service as well. I guess the thing that made the funeral today most touching to me is that Saturday my great-aunt died. They will have a memorial for her next Saturday. Had we traveled to the US as planned, we would, in fact, be there now. I would likely have seen Aunt Louise in the nursing home and said my goodbyes. And, yet, part of me is very glad that it all worked out this way. Instead of remembering a woman who was, honestly, waiting to die, I get to remember Aunt Louise as I've always known her. We visited her just before moving to Jordan and I have great pictures of the kids playing with her and dashing about her yard. That's the way I'd prefer to remember her... So, Goodbye Aunt Louise and safe travels.

As for the funeral today, it was definitely a new experience. One thing that was very different than the US is the timing. My friend's father died the day before yesterday. And the funeral was yesterday. That's beyond quick... as a counter-example, my great-aunt died last Saturday and the memorial is next Saturday. Typically in the US, funerals are 5-7 days after the death to allow the family to get there in time. Given the US' size (it takes DAYS to drive across the US) and the widespread nature of families, you've got to allow a bit of time for folks to gather.

Another very nice difference was the coffin. For those who aren't familiar with US coffins, they seem like dream liners... They have lots of silk pillows and cushioning and doodads. It's like a huge feather bed for someone who, let's be real, isn't in any discomfort. They're often quite fancy in design and come in a variety of woods and colors and what-not. The decisions are mind-boggling and they can cost as much as a small car (I mean literally thousands of dollars). In contrast to that, the coffin yesterday was a fairly simple, lovely wooden casket with no visible padding. They placed roses around the "rim," as it were, so that when it was open you saw the departed one framed in flowers. It was simple and beautiful.

An interesting difference (El 3atal says this may be a Greek Orthodox tradition as it wasn't the case at his first funeral last month) was that the men and women sat in separate areas of the chapel. There was an excellent turn-out and I was happy for the family that so many people came to show their love and support. In addition to sitting apart, the men and women adhered to different dress code standards. Funny to say that. The women were pretty much all in black or black and white and were all dressed in nice pants suits or skirt suits. The men were a mix. Some wore full suits with ties, some wore jackets with no ties, some wore slacks with T-shirts. One guys even had on white tennis shoes :). I found it very interesting to see the difference in the approach of the men and women.

All in all, it was a very moving experience and the day couldn't have been better. On the way home, we saw the movie set where they are filming the American? movie. It's just outside the cemetery. And, as El 3atal realized and mentioned today, funerals give the chance for closure. They let you say goodbye. What a blessing to have the opportunity.

Happy Goodbyes!

6 Comments:

At 6:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit I had a hard time digesting this post. You must be a very cheerful person, especially wife and mother for your husband and kids :D

And that's a compliment.

 
At 9:13 PM , Blogger husna said...

Salam Sister,
You are strong.
Inna lillah wa inna lillahi rajiun

 
At 12:17 AM , Anonymous salam said...

In all the funerals I've been to, and there has been a lot of them lately:) men adnd women sat seperately.

 
At 12:53 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Anon, Sorry to hear you had a hard time with the post. I know that death is a hard subject for many, many people. Personally, I figure that it's one more part of life. And, when I get called home, I'll be ready. Tears and sadness (for me) are the reaction of how much I'll miss the person (like the tears I cried for my aunt, she's in a much better place now). I try to remain cheerful because circumstances won't change, only my outlook will, so I might as well make the best.

Husna, welcome! As for my strength, any I have comes from God and is truly a blessing. I was actually thankful to be at the funeral yesterday as well because since I was not personally overset, I was able to send many prayers up to help those who were and give them strength.

Salam, JiddoBean said it's a tradition that the men and women sit separately. I think that would be the hardest part for me. I'd need the strength of the whole family gathered around me. Hopefully, I won't have to experience a gender-divided funeral :).

 
At 1:52 AM , Anonymous salam said...

Hopefully you don't face a funeral at all for a long lomg time..I tell you , it is tough..I so wanted to be near my brother in my dad's funeral..

 
At 3:37 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Salam, I agree. Here's hoping you don't have to face a funeral again soon either.

 

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