Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Funeral Home Calling Hours

In a little while a friend is picking me up so that we can go to the calling hours for our other friend's son.  Here is what I remember from 5.5 years ago:
My surviving son said that the place looked like, ummmm, I believe that what he said was  "a Vegas brothel."  I trust that that remark emerged out of imagination rather than experience.  I believe that it had to do with the overdone décor, particularly the drapes and upholstery.
The event seemed very stilted at first.  People began to sit quietly in the chairs ringing the rooms.  I went over to a group of Josh's college friends and urged them to move about freely and talk among themselves.  "One would think that you were in a funeral home.  Oh.  I guess you are."  Yes, I actually said that.
One consequence of the above was that, as the afternoon and evening wore on, the crowd became a large crush of people.  We abandoned all sense of a receiving line and wandered about greeting our guests.
I was surprised by who showed up.  A lot of it I could not remember afterward, and I had to look at the guestbooks to see who had been there.  But there are moments that remain clear to me.  A lawyer colleague whom I had not seen in a decade, but who had lost a college-age daughter years earlier.  Parents and children from the Jewish school in which I had taught ~ a brave move on their part on many levels.  My cousin who flew in from Chicago and had only an hour to spare before his flight back.  Two nuns who had made the four hour drive from southern Ohio and had to make their return trip that night.  That's why I'm going today, because I remember those moments.
And something I learned.  I had been most opposed to the urn being "displayed" at the funeral home and at the service the next day.  The funeral home director kept talking about "closure," which I consider a BS kind of word.  But there it was.  And at one point I glanced in that direction, and saw Josh's ex-girlfriend, fiancee' really, standing alone in front of the table.  She quietly blew a kiss in the direction of the urn and mouthed the word, "Good-bye."  So.  I thought.  Maybe it is of some use. 



  1. Your grace, wisdom and even just quiet presence will be a great value to the family. Thank you for being with them.

    The little ceremonies and rituals we do when we say goodbye, whether at funerals or graduations or break-ups, are useful to me. It's an artificial construct and it doesn't make pain go away; I've found you can't order yourself to stop hurting because it's "been long enough". But it still helps, if only to really be aware of the passage of time. Maybe that's closure, maybe it isn't. Without those rituals everything seems to run together.

  2. I pray that God will give you peace in your heart after making that visit as it will not be an easy time for you. Thank you for living out your call to be Christ with skin on for others.