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Monday, December 1, 2008

Death Musings

Oh yeah.  

I got you all psyched with that title, I know it.  

You're cruising around blogtown with your snazzy little handbag and colorful scarf feeling all breezy and cool and all "Hi, how's it going?" and stopping by all of your very closest cyber-friends' places to get a little chuckle and leave a hello and maybe find some little gem along the sidewalk and then...


You're not sure whether you should stop or maybe just pass for today...yeah, why don't you? Just go ahead and click away if you're in no mood.  It's cool.  I feel ya.  I'm not one who likes to be a buzz-kill or anything. 

But if you're just a little bit curious or maybe just feeling a little generous today...

...come on in.

I know it's a little dark in here.  But not pitch dark - there's a few warm candles burning and the couch is still all comfy and welcoming so have a seat. 

So yeah, I got some death thoughts swirling.  I guess that happens when someone you love dies, right? 

I think it should be mandatory for anyone grieving to take a night drive through the desert. The splattering blur of constellations across yes, a pitch pitch black black desert sky, does something for the soul that is well, transcendent. 

I took the same drive just a year ago when my grandma (THE original mom without a blog) died and I felt the same way as I did last night. The souls of the recently departed are all fresh and still searching for their place I think and in the quiet black of that desert starry sky, they speak to me. And it's comforting.

My brain crunches hard on what happens the instant you leave this world and start your journey to the next.   It's not a scary thought for me - just an extremely intriguing one.  

I spoke to my aunt less than five days before she died and it simply trips me out to think I won't hear her voice anymore.  I mean, I'll hear just won't sound the same.

Tonight I sit with my three kiddos finally snoozing and I prepare for the next two days of the formal goodbye.  Tomorrow we will head to one of those fascinating funeral homes where we will hang all day with the body that housed the soul of my aunt.  We'll cry, we'll laugh, we'll tell stories, we'll chase the kids around telling them to be quiet but everyone will be relieved by the distraction of them, we'll eat and eat some more because that would make my aunt happy, we'll pray, we'll do what you do when you take some time to contemplate a life.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was 5 years old when my mom's mom died and the viewing of the body was quite a scene.  It was my first look at a real dead person.  I remember both my mom and my dad crying and hugging in front of the coffin - my little 5-year-old brain looking up at them and feeling a little freaked that my dad was crying.  I had never seen that one before.  

My older brother (just 15 months older) encouraged me to touch my grandma's hand.  I did.  It felt hard and cold and that memory has kept me from wanting to touch any more dead people. I prefer to remember the touch filled with warmth and life so I'll forgo any touching tomorrow.  For sure.

Now that I'm the mother - the one guiding my kids' experience when it comes to death and saying goodbye - it puts a different spin on things.  I am thankful my parents were believers in dealing with the pain of goodbyes in a honest, upfront way.   They never acted like death or saying goodbye was anything less than just a part of living.   And with the death of my grandmother a year ago, and now my aunt, my girls at ages 6 1/2 and 4 1/2 have a chance to remember how the concept of death was made real to them.   

And that concept will include hanging out with a body in a coffin all day long, playing with their cousins, eating treats, seeing their mama cry, seeing their grandparents cry, seeing their aunts and uncles cry, finding some cool hide-and-seek spots around the funeral home I'm sure, and maybe, just maybe, it will include touching a dead body.  

Not that I will encourage it, that's for damn sure.

So if you've stuck around this long, any thoughts on kids viewing or touching a dead person?


  1. my first death experience was similar to yours. it was weird to see the emotion of my parents, but i don't think they took the time to explain to me their feelings (we didn't do a lot of 'talking about our feelings' in our family).

    i think i would encourage a lot of dialogue with the kiddos and maybe don't force them to touch her, but if they could look at her without getting too upset or freaked out, i think that would be good. the more we get 'used' to death, i think the better. it really is just a part of life, and the more comfortable we are with it, the more prepared we will be if/when it hits close(r) to home.

    i am sorry for your loss.

    i am intrigued by your description of the desert. it sounds beautiful.

  2. My children attended their first visitation and funeral last year. It was my husband's aunt and they adored her. I was thankful their first funeral experience was of someone they were close too, but not as intimate as a grandparent. I think it gave them the chance to see it all happen without having AS MUCH emotion tied up in it.

    They spent a lot of time at the casket, not all at once, but a variety of visits. I didn't force anything. They had some questions and we answered them honestly.

    Hang in there!

  3. I don't have any advice at all. My 1st experience with death was my grandfather when I was in the 2nd grade. I don't remember much of the funeral... not even sure if I went for a close up view of his body.

    I hope everything works out okay. I'll be thinking about you.

  4. shudder

    Yep, been thru it, and slightly worse, which I wont go into, and probably never will...

    That being said, I sure feel for you, just keep thingking about the good things, and time will create nice distance between you and the bad things.

    Love your blog, I just added you to my roll, and plan to be a complete annoying stalker here.

  5. Wow - great insight into your experience. I have to say that I am a novice on the subject of death (thank God). It sounds like you are doing an amazing job of teaching your girls. I'm sure they will be better for it. Way to go!

  6. As a child looking back it seems I had quite a few death experiences. I was born as an only child into a family that was quite old. My Mother, no she was young, but we lived next door to my Grams, my Great Grams, Great Grandpa and then down the road was two Great Aunts all of whom were in their 80's and 90's when I was a child. I attended all of their funerals between 2nd grade and 8th grade.

    I guess my Mom was pretty open about death, her sadness, what it meant. As a child going to all those funerals I never once touched them, but I watched other family members pat their hand or touch their forehead as they passed the casket and said goodbye.

    With my own children they didn't have a death experience until they were in 7th & 8th grades and by then they understood and it was fine.

    I guess if I had little kids I would be the same as my Mom was with that. She never told me I couldn't touch the person, she just told me that I could if I felt like it. She explained that I shouldn't be scared or upset if I saw other people touching the person because that is their way of having closure or saying goodbye in the physical world.

    In the end I was never freaked out by going to funerals even though I remember clearly not wanting to touch the person. I too have the most memories of hide and seek in the funeral home, playing with cousins, and the wonderful big dinners that followed with everyone sitting around remembering.

  7. I hate funerals...I'm one of those people who laughs at the most inappropriate times especially when I'm extremely sad! And I actually started laughing at my great grandmother's funeral not because I thought it was funny, but I felt so uncomfortable, I didn't know how else to handle it...Crazy I know...but I really don't like attending those, it's way to wierd for me!

  8. That was a beautiful description. And an awesome post.

    As far as advice...I've got none. I think there are so many factors that come into play. You'll know the right thing when the time comes.

    You're in my thoughts.

  9. that was incredible! Unfortunately, I have met that cold bastard death- many times. When I touched my father's hand when I was 18, I was shocked at the cold hard touch. I have never forgotten that, and the memory has become a part of who I am.

    I say, you are wise to include them in this part of your life. Include them, embrace them, educate them and comfort them. You never, never know when they will need this experience to guide them. right?

  10. I'm sorry I did not "know" you back then. I found this post thanks to Sass.

    I have been fortunate, my first experience with death did not come until I was in college. My father's mother. I just remember thinking she didn't look anything like she did when she was alive, and that the mortician was an idiot. I did not have the guts to touch her.



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