37 People Wearing Black

I’m awkward around the dead. Funerals put me into an uncomfortable position and walking into a cemetery just kicks in my paranoia. I’ve been to quite a few funerals in my life, not the greatest thing to say, but its true. All of which left me with different emotional states.

Some were easy, go to the visitation, pay respects and go home. Some were more difficult, like my grandmother’s. I was really close with my grandma and I was an emotional wreck at her funeral. At the end of the day my eyes were so puffy, my throat was sore, I was so drained that the last thing I wanted to do was have a meal and chat some more with relatives I didn’t even know.

But, other funerals I didn’t even shed a tear. Today I had a funeral for my great uncle on my mother’s side. I was fine before I reached the church, then I started getting really nervous and faint. I did everything I could to distract myself from the fact that it was a funeral service. I would go talk with my aunts, cousins, grandparents just to get my mind off of it. During the service I found myself identifying items in the room.

37 people were wearing black.
There are 32 columns of wood paneling by the alter.
The woman behind me was sharp for all three hymns that we sung.
My grandpa fell a sleep and sneezed 3 times.

Among other things. Its not that I don’t like being there, its just that I don’t know what to say, what to do, how to act, where to look…

I’ve never paid respect to the casket either. For every funeral that I’ve been to, since I’ve understood what death means, I’ve never walked up to the casket and paid respects. I just can’t do it. I cannot look at the person that I’ve once known, full of life before, and now motionless in a box in front of me. I do pay respects to the family, and I say a silent prayer to the one that has passed once I’ve sat down. I just can’t see them laying dead in front of me.

I’d rather remember them how they were. My last visual memory of them I want to be of them alive, not of them dead. Today I looked around the room and saw family members crying, friends of my great uncle with sympathetic faces, and young children who looked bored and confused. As I looked I questioned why funerals are so focused on mourning the life of a loved one? Why are they not about celebrating the life they lived?

We celebrate life on so many occasions: birth of a child, birthdays, life achievements in school or work, but why not when the life of the person matters the most? When they’re dead. The pastor today kept saying, “today we mourn the life of a father, a husband, a brother, a grandfather..” but he never once mentioned remembering him or celebrating his earthly life.

Sometimes I wish I could have the naivety of my younger cousin (age 8). He thought today was a day to hang out with the extended family. He was so excited to see all his cousins that he ran up to me and said “I’m so ready for this dress up party!” He thought that this was just another family reunion, but one where everyone dresses up. So you can just guess the confusion on his face when the service started. But afterwards he got to play outside, eat some food and play with his cousins. “Today was a great day, except for the whole dying thing.” – my cousin.

Its okay to mourn, I’m not writing this saying that you shouldn’t mourn their life, I was an emotional wreck during many funerals, but I’ve learned that if you celebrate their life and all that they have done, it makes the grieving process easier, for me at least.

Today I did not mourn my great uncle’s life; I remembered him and celebrated all his accomplishments.



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