Funeral customs - page 2

by ShayRN 1,932 Views | 24 Comments

I was raised in a very small town and never attended a funeral other than those similar to my own background. I married a Catholic man and the funerals are a bit different than my "WASP" background, but not so much that anything... Read More


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    Quote from ShayRN
    I was raised in a very small town and never attended a funeral other than those similar to my own background. I married a Catholic man and the funerals are a bit different than my "WASP" background, but not so much that anything was a shock to me.

    I became very close with a Jewish woman at work and have become very close over the last 5 years with an African American woman I bowl with every week.

    C, the Jewish woman lost her father last Spring. I went to the funeral and was struck by the "plain" coffin. It was completely wood, it looked to be untreated. Then after the service we walked right out to the cemetary and they lowered the coffin into the ground as people (family and friends) each put a scoop of dirt on top one shovel at a time. I have never seen the coffin actually lowered right into the ground with the family standing there. About 3 monthes later she started talking about a ceremony her family was coming back in town for over one weekend. Apparently, the headstone came in and they have a ceremony for the unveiling. I have never heard about anything like this either.

    Then last week my African-American friend lost her father in law. I went to the funeral and let me tell you, I was blown away. There was singing and dancing. They read letters from other churches in the area (the man was a Deacan in the church.) They was celebrating the life of the man rather than mourning the death. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen! I called my husband and told him this is what I want! The only thing that I found a bit strange were the 4 women dressed as nurses. They had on all white with the caps and everything. They were walking around passing out tissues. My girlfriend told me the aren't actually nurses, just volunteers who pass out tissues and water and smelling salts in case anyone "falls out."

    I found this all to be very enlightening. So, I thought, with all the different regions we have here there are surely some different customs for funerals. How do you mourn the loss of your loved ones? Is it a somber, sad affair or is it a celebration of the life lived?
    Yes, this Jewish funeral sounds about right. The only thing is that I thought that the unveiling takes place on the first anniversary of the death, not three months later.

    Another Jewish custom pertaining to death is a mourning period for the immediate family members, which lasts for a week following the funeral. During this one week, friends visit with the family members to comfort them in their time of mourning. The idea behind this custom is to help the family with the grieving process and to take their mind off their loss a little bit. It shows that the friends are there to support the family in their time of need. Additionally, family members add a special prayer in the daily services for one year following the death of a close relative.
    ShayRN likes this.
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    Your information on the Jewish customs seems to be accurate. I am a convert to Reform Judaism, a sect that is a bit less traditionally observant than Conservative or Orthodox. The shiva (seven day mourning period following a death) is generally observed by all three, though. I have personally assisted with about a dozen Taharas (preparation for burial) in the past three years as a member of Chevra Kaddisha ("holy society"). Two or three ladies (many of them nurses or former nurses) meet at the funeral home where we say a prayer over the deceased, ask her 'forgiveness' for any indignity we may cause in preparing her for burial, then wash her and dress her in a plain shroud, and assist in placing her in a simple wooden coffin.
    It is customary for a Conservative or Orthodox Jew to be buried within 24 hours of death, unless they have died on the Sabbath. The body is not 'made up' or embalmed and nothing unnatural is enclosed in the coffin - we even remove all surgical tape, wigs, nail polish, and surgical markings from the body. A packet of earth from the land of Israel is sometimes placed under the pillow.
    Traditionally, even surgically amputated limbs were buried, as any part of the body is considered sacred, but it is now considered to be a great mitzvah (commandment) to donate organs to save a human life. Some Reform Jews (like me) are very comfortable with the idea of cremation, since we believe the Almighty can 'reconstitute' us as easily from ashes as He can from dust. :icon_roll Personally, I would not be without my donor card -- and I hope that if I should die while my organs are still usable, they take me straight from the hospital to the crematorium. I hate the idea of anyone going into debt for a fancy funeral or burial -- especially mine!
    ShayRN and Hoozdo like this.
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    I sometimes think of cremation and having my ashes sent in an envelope to the IRS with a note that says, "Now you have it all." :innerconf
    VivaLasViejas, Spidey's mom, ShayRN, and 3 others like this.
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    I had forgotten about the 7 days of mourning. My co-workers and I all donated money and took food and drink to C's family. Apparently that is another custom, friends and family provide all the family's meals during that period. I love that!
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    There are many ways to come into this world.....We often fine it easier to be born here than to die here. Many world groups are ready to help all become pregnant and follow thru with the pregnancy. There is help to raise children, there are guides to help us to be heathy and happy thou out our lives. But there is no guide to tell us how to die. Most hate to lose loved ones and lose ourselves also. But it is just a fact...
    I for one...would like to see more people give as much thought to the way we exit this world as they do the energy they give to people who are born here! You can eat right, do right, live well......but we can not live forever. So? how do you help people see?
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    Quote from ShayRN
    I had forgotten about the 7 days of mourning. My co-workers and I all donated money and took food and drink to C's family. Apparently that is another custom, friends and family provide all the family's meals during that period. I love that!
    Yes, that is correct. Actually, Jewish law prohibits the family from cooking any meals during The Shiva (7 day mourning period).

    Just a side note, the 7 day mourning period is called the "Shiva" because "Shiva" is the Hebrew word for 7.
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    Quote from softstorms
    There are many ways to come into this world.....We often fine it easier to be born here than to die here. Many world groups are ready to help all become pregnant and follow thru with the pregnancy. There is help to raise children, there are guides to help us to be heathy and happy thou out our lives. But there is no guide to tell us how to die. Most hate to lose loved ones and lose ourselves also. But it is just a fact...
    I for one...would like to see more people give as much thought to the way we exit this world as they do the energy they give to people who are born here! You can eat right, do right, live well......but we can not live forever. So? how do you help people see?
    To answer your question from my POV: Like so much in the world, we need more communications and education. We need to be able to talk to the important people in our lives and let them know our wishes.

    A little story to go along with this. My mother knew she was dying of CA. She wrote her requests, and shared them with all her children. She included the things that were important to her. She stopped having chemo when it got to the point of experimental drugs as she knew she was not a good subject for research. She stopped radiation when it no longer helped with the pain of the growing tumor. She requested a plain coffin and cremation.

    The coffin was upsetting to the undertaker who was appalled that her children would not pay for an expensive mahogany casket with brass handles. We had to tell him repeatedly that we would honor her requests. I am sure some of her friends felt we were being cheap.

    Her communication to us has shown me that it is the right thing to do to talk to your loved ones. The fact that we are discussing it and will probably share some of these discussions with others will increase awareness, communications, and the possibility of education.

    Death is not an option, it is a reality. We all need to be able to share ourselves about this. It is similar to the discussions women have about birth options. Where, how, etc.
    softstorms likes this.
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    Quote from mizfradd
    I sometimes think of cremation and having my ashes sent in an envelope to the IRS with a note that says, "Now you have it all." :innerconf
    tylerlvn likes this.
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    I've been to an old order Amish funeral.The dead are laid out in a very plain casket in the home and friends,family and neighbors come and bring food.They pray,they sing and they remember good times with their loved one.It's nore of a celebration-they belive the deceased is going to a better place. I also remember going to a Jewsih shiva-the mirrors in the home were all covered.They had a bowl of water and towels outside the front door-we had to symbolically wash our hands before entering.Not sure why that is significant. We caref for a Korean women in LTC-after she died the family brought clothes and a new pair of shoes for us to dress her in-new shoes for her journey. I am so fascinated by funeral customs and events surrounding death in other cultures.We try so hard to pretty it up-I don't believe in embalming any longer.I'll be cremated.Someone better scatter some of me at Disneyworld,too.... My mother's family is from lower Maryland and Virginia-they always laid out the deceased in the house,too...Some families take pictures of the deceased-often posed with the living.That is so not my thing.I have a girlfriend whose mother has scrapbooks full of dead relatives. After our mother died my sister had the undertaker take some pics of her-I hate them and never wanted to see them.Sister thought she looked fabulous-I thought she just looked dead.GUess who ended up with the pics? I was living in mom's house and my sister left them there-I found them over a year after she died-burst into tears and then burned them.It took me along time to be able to remember her as a happy healthy active person instead of seeing her lying in that bed for months,dying.
    Last edit by ktwlpn on Dec 5, '08 : Reason: oops
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    i know back in the 20's, 30's and 40's they used to lay bodies out in the home's "parlor".
    i do not think this is legal nowadays. not for sure. i'll have to ask a mortician, next chance i get ! haha

    praiser :heartbeat


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