Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Of caskets in Cumberland

I went to a wake yesterday (husband of someone I know passed away suddenly- cancer). It was my first wake. It was also my first time seeing a dead body. Not that I looked too hard. In fact, I spent as much time as I could averting my eyes from the flower-decked casket.

My coworkers (who graciously spent the day schooling me in Catholic Wake 101) and friends were surprised that I'd never seen a body before. Yesterday's wake seemed like a nice tradition, minus the open casket (I had visions of it dancing before my eyes as I fell asleep).

Jews don't do the open casket thing. Usually, at a Jewish funeral, that casket is rarely glimpsed, save for the actual burial. In fact, the wake reminded me of the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva, only with a body in the room. And minus the food.

My two previous non-Jewish funeral experiences were for my step-grandmother (Catholic- I was a kid, my dad banished me to a room with coloring books during the most of the wake) and my ex-boyfriend's grandfather (Unitarian- the minister did a great job, considering she'd never met the decedent), who died during my spring break, senior year of college.


Plantation said...

I never understood this either. It's an awful thing to attend.

-Ann said...

There was a lot of uproar here recently when an EU minister announced that the EU might have to ban embalming fluid as a pollutant. Doing that would effectively end open-casket wakes, which are a large part of the Irish funeral tradition.

I guess I never really thought of it as odd, but then it's all what you're used to.