This week’s blog headlines are filled with thoughts about celebrity deaths. Perhaps that’s why every kid in America wants to be famous. They’ve been to their own relatives’ funerals and found the news coverage of those to be conspicuous by its absence.
On the other hand, death is not an individual event. Although the strongest impact of death is usually on the one passing, many others are affected. When you’re caught up in the maelstrom of grief, you feel that it is unfair that the earth is still turning on its axis and unbelievable that others are going about their lives, ignorant of the change in human life as we know it. Perhaps that’s why we gather together at funeral homes to seek like-minded people with which to share our grief and celebrate the life that has passed, or has been ripped, from among us. Like the media coverage around Michael Jackson’s death, it helps us come to grips with what has happened. Usually.
I say usually, because I’m not sure all the gathering and grieving together got the concept of the finality of death through to my nephew when his great-grandmother died. Great-Grandma Hedgecock was 93 at the time of her death; my nephew was only 5. He, like the other three great-grandchildren that were between 5 and 8 and lived far away, had only visited with their great-grandmother on weekends.
The ritual had always been to go to church, visit Great-Grandma at her apartment, take Great-Grandma to Bob Evans, return Great-Grandma to her apartment, converse with and entertain Great Grandma for a while at her apartment while Grandma and Grandpa Hedgecock alternately dozed, then go back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
The day we gathered at the funeral home for visitation seemed much different to me, but probably not that different to my nephew. She had outlived her contemporaries and friends even one generation younger than her had trouble getting out and about. “Visitors” were mostly family. In retrospect, though, I think the open casket should have perhaps served as a clue.
As visiting hours waned, we discussed going out to eat together. We left the funeral home and were distributing ourselves into the various vehicles to head for the restaurant when my nephew excitedly asked, “Wait! Who’s taking Great Grandma?”
© Laura Hedgecock 2009