A friend and neighbor passed away a few days ago. Her services are today. I cannot attend. I am obligated to attend a 4 hour class about caregiving, required by our state when they subsidize even a small amount of in-home care by family friends or relatives. In my youth, I could simply have run across the street to their home to pay my respects. These days, I’ve had people tell me that they feel the old custom of having the viewing in someone’s home is barbaric and cruel.
I don’t agree. I grew up with that custom. It was a healing process. We were able to see that our loved one really was gone, not getting up, not responding to us. We were able to cry in front of, and with, loved ones, in an atmosphere where we didn’t have to worry about appearances. We were not ashamed. We were in the home of a loved one. We felt loved and comforted, not embarrassed.
The gathering at a residence gave me a warm feeling during the time of loss. It was a moment of awe to have the priest (or preacher or other clergy) come to someone’s house for the prayers. It was very special. Folks helped with food for visitors; they helped clean and prepare for the viewing or wake. There was a sharing of obligations that a business performs now.
Although the new traditions allow someone to speak for the deceased, in their honor, and although it is a tender, tasteful atmosphere, it does not give me the feeling of warmth in the way someone’s living room did.
Father, I miss the sharing, the love, the warmth of the earlier traditions for those who pass into your home, but I am happy that I still have memories of those days.