Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Decision: Bring Daughter to Visitation

Sometimes, you need to do what's right for you, even if it means going against the grain of tradition and ceremony.

But what we forget in our culture is that "sometimes" doesn't mean always. Many times, the situation isn't about you at all. It's about what's appropriate if you love or respect another person.

Funerals are a prime example.

I grew up in small towns, and everybody went to the funeral home. You could count on at least one person from every family in your church, most of your school mates and all of your neighbors for two square miles to be at the funeral of your family members. Generally, couples came and left the kids at home, but sometimes, everyone came. Occasionally, people slipped in, signed the registry and left. But you could generally count on a large showing.

Extended family and close friends brought food and people ate at the funeral home, which contributed to a bit of a carnival atmosphere. When my grandfather died abruptly of a heart attack, this was hard on the immediate family, who were in shock and deep grieving. But, they took comfort for years in knowing he'd attracted one of the bigger showings in the county's history, because people respected and liked him so much. When my other grandfather died, it was after a long illness. Then, the food and crowds seemed more appropriate. And we were still glad that so many came.

My point is this: Funerals aren't about your individual grief or even the immediate family's grief. This is an important part, certainly, but the real reason for funerals is for everyone who knew the deceased to honor, celebrate and mourn their life. That's why we respect their wishes in terms of how the funeral is arranged - otherwise, you'd hear more about what the spouse or children wanted.

Obviously, if you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown, you should do what you need to stay functional. But if you're just uncomfortable with visitations or funerals, if you just don't like being sad, if you "just didn't know the person," but are good friends with someone in the family - well, then, suck it up and go to the funeral. It's the right thing to do.

That's why I decided to bring my daughter to the visitation. I wanted her to be there, with and for her father. I wanted her to know that death is part of life. I want her to know that it's important to show up when there's joy or pain. And, I wanted her to come because I knew she'd be a comfort to her father.

As it turned out, she was a ray of sunshine for many family members and visitors. She wore a crown to the night visitation that sparkled and gave everyone reason to smile. Her youthful happiness couldn't be contained. She was life in the face of death.

My decision was also based upon the fact that everything I read said she was old enough.

She asked to see "great grandma" - the body - several times, but wasn't sad or frightened. We just told her that she was gone from her body because her body wasn't working anymore. This seemed to make sense to her. We did tell her she was with God and that had made her feel better, but we wouldn't be able to see her because she was with God. She seemed to accept this, although there were questions and we had to go over the whole body-not-working question several times.

We also weren't confined to the funeral parlor. Thankfully, this funeral home had a children's lounge with toys, puzzles, videos and even video games. We spent a great deal of time there and it was truly a blessing for us to be on site without having to sit quietly near the casket the whole time. I hope more funeral homes offer children's lounges.

I did not bring her to the funeral. Why? There were several reasons. First, I knew it would be a ceremony and she's not old enough to sit still for long without disrupting the service. I also knew it would be more emotional and potentially confusing for her. Finally, I felt after several days of being around adults non-stop, she deserved the normalcy of returning to her Mom's Day Out program.

I think I made the right decision, but only time will tell. I'll keep you posted.

| | |

Labels: ,



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home