Thursday, October 09, 2008
Last weekend I attended a funeral. Death is difficult, but all the more difficult when it occurs to someone young. My brother's wife died quietly in her sleep at home last Friday. She had cancer for a long time, even before my brother met her, but she stayed strong through several bouts of treatment and remission before the disease finally ate through her entire body, except her brain. In the end I suppose that was kind, that she never lost her sense of self, even as her body became foreign to her.
It wasn't that we didn't know she was at the last of her strength, but I don't think anyone expected it at that moment. I wasn't particularly close to my sister-in-law although I liked her and enjoyed her company when I visited family. But I mostly felt sadness for my brother, who will have to live without someone he loved. Whenever he broke down I felt like a puddle of tears. My brother is more of a softy than the strong, silent type, but seeing the emotion so plainly on his face was more than I could take.
Since my grandmother died when I was in high school I've had trouble with wakes. That was the first death that was personal to me. While maybe good for the brain to realize that person is irrevocably gone, I don't want to see the body in the casket. I'd rather remember someone in life, moving with expression. They never look like they're in peaceful repose to me. They're just not there anymore. Not because they've gone on to a better place, since I believe we only have one life, but because the without the brain functioning, the person isn't really there.
But the funerals are worse. I was prepared for a religious service after reading about the funeral of Philly Chief's aunt. It's something I didn't notice much when I was a believer. But I was still shocked by the grab for souls that the preacher made during the eulogy. He never once praised my sister-in-law for the person she was or the things she did in life. He claimed he didn't know if she was saved or not. He even alluded that she might be at that very moment burning in hell. But he was only too happy to claim that she would want each and every person in the audience to receive Christ.
As angry as I was I stared straight at him and feigned boredom during his altar call. I even managed a yawn. After all, it wasn't my call to make. My brother and her family had the funeral they wanted and despite feeling sick about it, it wasn't my place to say one way or another what kind of funeral she should have. But it didn't stop me from feeling his sermon was inappropriate. Even my brother-in-law, though I'm sure he considers himself Christian, complained afterwards that there was too much brimstone.
It only makes me that much more determined to not let that sort of thing happen at my funeral. I never really cared about my own funeral before. I won't be there to see what happens so why should it matter? Except for the thought of my loved ones being manipulated at at time of vulnerability I wouldn't give it a second thought. But now I have an overwhelming desire to plan out my own funeral. Is that healthy or normal?