The Practice of Funerals

I was raised a Catholic and attended many funerals in the years my mother volunteered with the Altar and Rosary Society. The first one I remember was held for a schoolmate who had cystic fibrosis. She died very young and our entire class attended the funeral. My mother had a photo in her memory books taken at the funeral of a young cousin. The actual deceased in her coffin was the subject of the picture. Apparently, this was a common occurrence in the 1920s.

Various other church members passed as the years did, but I don’t remember much of them. The next memory I have is of my grandmother passing away. My mother’s mother had never been especially loving to me, and no wonder as she had more than 50 grandchildren by the time she passed. She was 60 plus years old, which seemed a great age to me at the time. I didn’t expect to cry, but when my mother cried, I found myself in tears. My mom was the oldest girl in a large family and had been through a lot with her own mother. For all the pain and the joy, she said goodbye in a storm of grief.

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My parents on their wedding day.

Co-workers, aunts and uncles, many people of different faiths and beliefs touched my life and let me experience different ways of giving the living an opportunity to have closure. The grandchild of a coworker touched me deeply when he died at the age of 4. She had been raising him like her own. I think it’s a miracle that she got through the loss and went on with her life.

This past year has been very difficult. And backing up a few years, I have been losing friends suddenly for a while. One passed away in the hospital, very sudden in spite of her years of poor health. Her love and knowledge, her support and laughter have been missed for so long now.

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First Dad in Space.

I lost my best friend to murder, totally unexpected and unexplained. We’ll never know the whole of it. Such a waste of lives, as both her and her son are taken from us like this. Her family won’t recover to the stage they were at in the beginning of the year.

My father died this month, and while you are reading this, I will be attending his services. No open casket as cremation is the preferred option. We gather in our sorrow and need, all my sisters and brothers, to hold the ideal of this man in our hearts. He’s gone and recriminations are pointless. We gave him love and understanding, we held him to the end in love.

I mentioned to an acquaintance about my father’s passing. She is Vietnamese and asked how many days we would keep vigil? Apparently, her custom is for three days of remembrance unless the person died on a good day. Then one day will suffice. They wear white, not black. Mourning can last from 3 months to 3 years, depending on the relationship.

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Dad, grandkids Alain and Alexia, Stepmom Babe at 50th wedding anniversary party.

I think about the Regency era romances I have written, using the most I could find about the customs for funerals then. The usual period of mourning was a year for a parent or spouse. Could I go for a year wearing black and only changing to purple and lavender in the last three months? Could I avoid parties and entertainments, staying at home and not being happy? Thankfully, since I live in southern California and not England, I don’t have to wear black. In fact, most funerals I have been to lately have been lacking in everyone wearing black or navy blue. I’m glad for that.

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Portrait together, not long before we lost Mom.

I can’t imagine my dad wanting us to give up joys and entertainments in our lives. He lives on in our hearts and our memories, where I remember him always making jokes, always taking a picture of someone taking his picture, usually my sister. Laughter held an important place in his life and so in his honor, I will be smiling today.

Thank you for reading. I’ll be back on Sunday.

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