I've been thinking about the whole concept of funerals and viewings. That's probably not a surprise. *grin*
My family likes to put little things in the casket that characterize the person. Of course, it means nothing to the person after death, but it means something to the family and friends... I remember putting a letter in my cousin's casket. I have no idea what I wrote, but it made me feel better.
I really have to wonder how much the little speech at the standard funeral service helps to the family of a person who is not a churchgoer. It was very obvious that my grandfather's service was a generic deal performed by someone who knew nothing about him, and it meant very little to me.
My granny's service in 1992, on the other hand, was a beautiful celebration of who she was. It was held in the church she had attended since I was a little girl, and I am glad they hadn't moved to the new church building yet. It was familiar--both to me, and the building itself was an icon of who she was. She had worshipped there, worked there, prayed there ... and she had loved me there, and that made it special for me. She had planned most of her own service, and it was more like a worship service than a funeral. There was time for people to share some brief memories, and the pastor spoke briefly. But mostly there was a lot of music. She liked music, and she specifically requested lots of music--"and don't let the sermon be too long." Afterwards we all went in the fellowship hall and had desserts, and even that was characteristic of her. Everyone was family to her, and it was fitting that everyone socialized and the family didn't go hide away and have our private moments right away. I know people brought food in for us, but I also know that the church was as much a part of the grief process as the family.
None of my grandparents' friends spoke to me yesterday. A few spoke to my dad. But for the most part I was among strangers, and even my own family are strangers. I kept thinking of the story about people telling Jesus that his mother and his brothers are looking for him and how he said that whoever follows him is his mother and his brothers. That always confused me, but now I understand. The people who followed him really knew him and supported his ministry. They knew what was important to him. They knew where he struggled, and they knew the kind of comfort that helped him. My own family knows so little about me--and I know even less about them. I can't imagine attending my sister's funeral... My sister is truly a stranger to me.
My mom is extremely family-oriented, and it upsets her when I say things like this. When she was a little girl, extended family lived near each other. Family gatherings weren't just formalities. They were naturally occurring events because the family knew each other well and enjoyed being together. She likes family gatherings now because she can pick up with relatives where they left off 20 or 30 years ago. I have no such foundation to build on. My sister and my mom are developing a close adult relationship. I always wanted that, but I'm too different--and my values are things they can't relate to. I don't feel respected, and that is a major hindrance to building close family relationships. I'm not helping matters by living so far away, but I'm realizing that it only matters to me because I can't fit in Mom's neat little family mold. Somehow, I need to make my own life somewhere, to find something to devote myself to.