When my husband died, (No matter how much times goes by, I still feel strange typing those awful words), our family felt comfortable choosing a traditional way of saying good-bye to him and paying our final respects: he was laid to rest in a beautiful coffin and we held a lively wake and Catholic Mass so that everyone could gather and share their precious memories of his short time with us.
At that blurry point, our son and I were in the most vulnerable condition of our lives and so was everyone else who loved and adored him. He was with us one day and then gone the next. That is the stark truth that we were slapped with. In our shock, we all were transported to a place we had never been before, a place of deep grief, where nothing made sense, yet we were expected to plan a memorial service, wake, and funeral in a very short amount of time for a person we deeply loved.
To this day, my husband’s eulogy, beautifully and eloquently written and delivered by one of my husband’s sons, is etched in my memory. I don’t know where he found the strength to stand and say the words which reflected his love and understanding of his father’s unique life but somewhere inside of himself he did. If there can be a high point of a funeral, then this moment stands forever as one with a halo around it!
Amidst the sweet good-byes is a gesture I didn’t know about at the time, but it is one that reflects a man’s unspoken tie to my husband. As I have written before, my husband loved the NY Giants and the NY Yankees. My brothers and my brothers-in-law are die hard Washington Redskins fans. I know you get the sports message here of the trash talk between the two sides regarding the wins of losses of both teams.
Many weeks after the funeral, one of my brothers-in-law took me aside and told me that during the wake he had put a NY Giants baseball cap into my husband’s coffin. I thought that gesture spoke volumes about their friendship. Many people have told me stories about sentimental and personal items they have placed in their loved ones coffins and I have read stories of about this too and find the idea comforting.
I write of the need for each person to find a way to say good-bye to their deceased loved one to put in context the story recently published on the front page of the New York Times about the recent trend of people requesting funeral directors to pose their loved ones sitting up doing something that would have mimicked a scene from their life.
Grief can take us to some very unexpected places and I must say I’m not sure what to make of this one. Here is a link to the New York Times story and I would be interested in your thoughts: