Do you talk about death with your children? How about your end-of-life wishes?
Little Mirrors of Mortality
How one late-in-life parent discusses death with his children.
and by Milo:
Last Saturday, my kids and I were driving to lunch at Chick-fil-A when we were delayed at the traffic light nearest our house. Two police officers, who had been waiting for their cue, activated lights and sirens and stopped traffic in all directions. I had no idea why, as we’re nowhere near the typical political motorcade territory, but then a couple of limos, a hearse, and a line of about 40 or 50 cars followed their slow, dignified path on the way to the cemetery.
So, my kids and I got to talking about funeral traditions. I have some limited (thankfully) familiarity with what I assume are standard, middle-class Catholic Northeastern customs: an evening viewing with an open casket, a lot of old people nobody’s seen in 20 years coming to pay their respects after seeing the obituary in the paper, a casual impromptu dinner at a pizza restaurant afterward, another gathering at the funeral home the next morning where the casket is solemnly closed, an escorted drive to mass, How Great Thou Art and maybe Nearer My God to Thee or Be Not Afraid, another escorted drive to the cemetery, and a luncheon afterward. (In earlier decades, and when there is still a significant amount of family living in the area, this part can happen at someone’s house. My dad refers to one particular dish of chicken, tomato wine sauce, and orzo as “funeral food,” because any time there was a funeral, at least one or two aunts would bring over a huge pot of it.)
Most of my grandparents were lucky, in my mind, to have outlived so many people that their funeral processions were much smaller than what I saw on Saturday. (As an aside, in college, I once heard a very entertaining talk by Ross Perot that was peppered with a lot of folksy sayings. On the topic of incompetence in leadership, he quipped that he “wouldn’t trust this guy to lead a *two-car* funeral.”) The older men who worked as attendants at the funeral home and did the little things like drive the hearse and limo reminded me of mob extras on the Sopranos with their dark jackets and ties and feathered fedoras.
How different are the customs in your family or geographic, religious community? Do you find them familiar and comforting, or torturous? If you had to plan your own funeral, what would it look like?