Observing traditions

Last evening I went to a funeral home visitation for my aunt. It’s strange the things you notice, or how you react in that environment. (Especially since I’m still somewhat unsettled about having visited with my aunt and uncle at my parents’ place a couple weeks ago.)

My family being the size that it is, we were in an area that is potentially three separate rooms when the extra space isn’t needed, and despite the occasional waft of air conditioning, I could feel sweat trickling down my back within minutes of arriving. How my Dad was surviving in his coat and tie I’ve no idea.

At the points when I was standing within eyesight of the casket, I kept noticing a small bruise on my aunt’s left hand. Kept thinking how that was never going to heal. I’ve always had a weird thing about things healing, so it bothered me. (In a similar way, I guess, to how it bothered me to know that, once he became diabetic, it meant Dad would tend to heal much more slowly now.) Honestly, reminded me of Owen in the last season of Torchwood.

The awkwardness of the interactions showed up, as expected, as well. Kind of inevitable, really. I’m not one with a command of golden words under any circumstances (nor is my brother, hence why he’d been there and gone already by the time I arrived). Combine that with making small talk with lots of people I see infrequently, and it ends up being the same topics, briefly, over and over. The excuse of “I should go say hello to…” tends to be a life saver.

Oddly, the most fluid conversation was the one with my uncle, the widower of the hour, as it were. But then, talking has never been a weakness for him, and I’m pretty sure he was keeping what equilibrium he had by engaging with as many folks as possible.

The little “shrines” around the room got me pondering. They had a display of photos, and one of keepsakes and such. Made me think about how we encapsulate life, and how rarely the really key moments get captured with photos and things. Wonder what would be set up on a table if I was the deceased in question?

The funeral itself will be easier. Less talking needed, and I know what to do in church. The process is the same, whether it’s a Sunday service or a wedding or a funeral, really. As I mentioned to someone last week, in my family, anyway, the main difference between a wedding and a funeral seems to be the number of people at the front of the church. So I can go, listen, sing, bow my head, and then have the handy excuse of needing to get back to work.

Which is what we all do, of course. Go through the motions, then go back to work until life’s patterns are disrupted, and it’s time to observe the rituals once again.

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