The Visitation- or what to decorate is the question?

January 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm 15 comments


Part Two – THE VISITATION or what to decorate is the question

If you are still with me after part one- none but the brave –BUT remember this will be happening to each and every one of us eventually— there is no escape….. no turning away from death!

We have now learned that the embalming process is done for a few reasons but mainly for visitation purposes and viewing the body . In some cultures including those that live in Lorain, Ohio it seems to be the norm.

It is a way of a community to pay their respects to those that have lost their loved one , and to meet and greet and share remembrances. It is a way of closure for some ( not all) but I respect those rituals and respected the right of my son’s extended family to have their way of closure.

Frankly it just goes against the grain for me. One of the very, very rare occasions that I attended a “visitation ” I over heard one aged aunt saying

” Doesn’t she look well”

I wanted to say :errrr She is dead!!!!how WELL can you look?

Or my friend, whose visitation I did attend ( under duress I might add) , lay stretched out in her Cadillac of a casket with her glasses perched on the end of her nose. Those that knew her well knew she didn’t wear them but for reading and was actually a little vain about her appearance ( she would have hated it). All I could think of was :

“OMG now she will have them on for decades under the ground unless they fall off!”

No ! the “receiving line of grief “ was not for me and to attend would have been hypocritical on my part – I may be many things but I am not hopefully not a hypocrite.

Coupled with the fact that upon hearing my son’s remains would not be available for the visitation due to cremation , ONE “extended” family member expressed to those gathered at the funeral arrangement meeting:

“If there is NO casket for display what are we going to DECORATE????

No!!!! my son was not a Christmas tree or mantelpiece to be decorated as a back drop to a receiving line…… I did not wish to stand in such a line with people who thought that way my beautiful talented son merely a backdrop to their “ritual of closure” filled me with disgust and pain.

I am not alone in my thinking that we need to face death and what happens.
The Desert Pastor Desert Pastor is actually Chris Monroe — an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church who pastors a congregation in the high desert of Southern California

Open Caskets: Our Need and Our FearWith three funerals to conduct this week, it’s certainly understandable that I’ve been thinking about death, dying, and grief. And when it comes to grief, it seems to me that there is a growing number of people in our American culture who struggle with the whole notion of open casket funerals. At last night’s funeral, approximately 90% of those who attended chose not to approach the casket or even look in its direction as they filed past to leave. Afterward, a family member commented about it and asked me why that was.

For some families, an open casket funeral is a must — it’s a way to bring closure and to say their goodbyes. For others, it’s little more than a macabre display which dishonors rather than honors the deceased. Add to all this (IMHO) a general insulation from the stark realities of death and dying in our culture (VERY unlike many other parts of the world), so that no wonder people are either afraid of looking at death, or convince themselves that somehow they are above such a thing.

To Be Continued………..

Entry filed under: Chris Ritchey, commentary, death, journey, weddings and funerals. Tags: , .

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Liz  |  January 14, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I never understood the open casket and receiving line. I always tried to avoid that part of the room, tried not to look. And I wonder how the next of kin were are able to stand for hours in dress shoes, suit or a dress. They would act as a host to a somber party, graciously comforting the people in line.

    I’d rather wear jeans, sit in a comfy chair, cry my eyes out, and have others comfort me.

  • 2. dave C  |  January 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    When I go have a great big party! Celebrate that I am free from the ugliness and pain of this body and the world.

  • 3. thatwoman  |  January 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Liz.I agree what has helped me most are those that stay in touch and let me blubber on ….no matter how uncomfortable or raw the emotion….. and understand my pain grief and anger….

    Dave I will toast you …pun intended 🙂 just let me know what you wish

  • 4. Mark  |  January 14, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    (LMAO @ Loraine’s last comment)

    I like Liz’s comment, but would take it a step further. I think when I go, I’d want folks to come casually dressed (given that anyone would want to come), and just relax. The sight of everyone standing around, dressed to the nines, ties and dresses, is always uncomfortable.

  • 5. Loraine Ritchey  |  January 14, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    So Mark you have now written it all down haven’t you ???? 🙂 if not the next part of the series may help ….. 😉

  • 6. Grammy  |  January 15, 2010 at 1:01 am

    We had a gathering to commerate our loved one in the back yard, friends and family (those that choose to attend) and sent balloons with messages off to heaven. We thenwent to his favorite restaurant and ate his favorite foods and remembered the good and bad times. It was uplifting to hear what everyone had to say, the stories remembered, the love and loss shared. While it is always an ache, it becomes for lack of a better term, tolerable. He left us with things to remind us of him and kinowing that we will all meet again helps.

    Hold on to each other now and forever. Share the love and loss and move forward to the next step of the journey.

    Loraine I hope you find the peace you are looking for.

    WIth love and hugs,

  • 7. Loraine Ritchey  |  January 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Hi Grammy…. You know I have lost loved ones in my lifetime, my Dad the closest ( I had to plan his funeral from 3,000 miles away ,, my husband has lost two brothers and his mother recently but nothing absolutely nothing compares to this….of course we didn’t have this “division” and the taking over by in actual fact nearly complete strangers who have caused us so much pain on top of pain.

    I say complete strangers because we probably met the extended family no more than 8 times socially in all the time that Chris dated their daughter etc. ( Chris “was not a fan” to use their vernacular ) and in hours I would say no more than 24 all added together.

    I would say we had a “nodding aquaintance”. … until of course that last week at the Cleveland Clinic.. and in the week following my son’s death…..( Oh and no we have not heard from any of them since except the day after the memorial service about a financial matter…. until a note delivered days later saying “sorry changed my mind “….. and they made all the decisions and to withold from us…….and we were on the receiving end and overwhelmed with their “committee thinking” ……

    I don’t know about peace.. my heart is as sore and pained as it was 6 weeks ago.. and I miss Chris so terribly …….. all I know is Chris would not have wanted what has happened to his ” family” with our closure ……..based upon a reasoning ( not an organ donor) that in the end was not factual… and ignorant.

    In the meantime my closure comes in answering the questions of 2nd guessing that is the direct result of their actions….

  • 8. Ngaire  |  January 16, 2010 at 2:26 am

    Not being a ‘regular’ attendee at funeral services, although I did go to one in the last few weeks of a very dear friend who died from breast cancer after a real battle, I have a preference to remember friends as they were when living.
    I must say that I find it a bit disconcerting that it appears common practice to have an open casket at the funeral service in the US – certainly not here in Australia although a ‘viewing’ beforehand is common with family and close friends who choose to do so.
    So, no, not for me!

  • 9. tony hines  |  January 16, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Well when my time comes they can put me in a black plastic bag and throw me out with the rubbish, and then recycle me, maybe I will come back as a rubber ball

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January 2010

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