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I had some awesome eggplant parmesan yesterday; we were out to dinner with my parents. Sadly, it wasn’t just for fun, but because I was accompanying them to a wake for a family friend who passed away on Friday. W was our neighbor for about 3 years; he and his wife and kids lived next door to us when we lived in the city and our families were truly the best of friends. There wasn’t a day that went by that we were not together, my mom and his wife, L being especially close. We both moved to the suburbs in the late eighties and while we were in touch for quite some time, gradually grew apart. Short of Christmas cards, we didn’t hear from each other too much—the last time I saw any of them was at my wedding in 2002—but that didn’t make them less important in my life. W was 55 and had an aneurism and the stress on his body caused a massive heart attack, according to the limited details we got. He left behind his wife and 4 children.

I thought about not going to the wake; with the frequency of our visits, I could probably live my life blissfully unaware that he was gone—it wouldn’t affect me. I decided to go though, along with my parents and middle brother and I am glad that I did. If I were in that situation, I would hope that they would be there to support me.

I find it amazing how differently people deal with death. His wife was back and forth between 2 extremes; first saying in her thick Italian accent “you take it with a grain of salt and move on; what else can you do?” and then sobbing hysterically. The oldest daughter, my childhood playmate, was bubbly, greeting everyone with kisses and smiles, really holding it together. You could almost call her exuberant. The second oldest was more subdued, but acted much the same as her sister. The youngest two did not socialize, but stayed with their group of friends. My mother has a thing about touching the corpse. I have never been to a wake where she hasn’t touched the dead. It’s weird, right? Me, I always behave the same—stare off in to space and try not to think about it. Try not to think about having to bury my own father some day. Engage with the family and offer them my support. The get the hell out of there.

Hub has told me on several occasions not to make a big deal when he dies. He doesn’t see the point in dragging anything out; just get it over with. Most importantly, he wants me to move on with my life. He is adamant about it. Obviously, I don’t want to think about that stuff, but I wonder if I could respect his wishes? To be strong and not grieve?

Seriously, I don’t even want to know.

8 responses »

  1. I think it’s good for people to remember that grieving helps those who are left behind, and that they might grieve differently than the deceased.My mom touches the corpse, too. What is that?

  2. I was just thinking about this earlier today, reading a post about the death of someone’s mother. I was thinking in terms of AD, and how I hope that she would be able to move on and not be sad for me.It seems that more OLDER people feel they have to touch the body to “say goodbye” whereas more YOUNGER people feel like touching or even SEEING the body tarnishes the memory of how they were in life.

  3. Um, touching dead people? Is this a common American death rite? I wouldn’t know since I have never been to a funeral and never really known anyone who has died. (Knock on wood)I think of my husband saying to me what your husband has said to you. And I think, “Pfft.” He is dead. I will do whatever I damn well please about it. Including bawling my eyes out and holding a huge New Orleans style funeral. But that is my rebellious personality. I know he would just want me to be happy. I think that is what your husband was trying to convey.But my goodness! We have such young strapping men in our lives. Surely, surely the fates won’t ask us to endure such a thing for decades to come.

  4. I wonder that same thing sometimes. But it’s really hard to think about. My mind just sort of shuts off.

  5. Misty- I can remember being at my great-gram’s wake and my cousin and I daring each other to touch her. I would never do it again. What is the point anyway?

  6. I try not to think of my husband dying. Whenever the thought tries to enter my head, I shut it off. I can’t even stand when he is late coming home from a meeting, let alone not being here at all, ever again. ack.

  7. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. It’s tough no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them. I agree that it’s interesting seeing how people handle grief. We recently went to the viewing of my friend’s mother. He just seemed to be composed and at ease about the whole thing. Yet I know he’s had his moments in private. But he’s not one to show emotion in public.Wow, I can’t imagine being happy when my husband dies. Of course I’ll HAVE to get on with my life, but I will definitely have a period of mourning. How could I not? That’s a tough one.

  8. You don’t expect someone to die in their 50’s – that’s too young. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.It’s hard to think of losing your husband at any age. When you have young kids, it’s the sense that they’ll be missing so much. When you’re my parents age, you wonder how the surviving spouse can picture a life without her partner of so many years. Dark thoughts – I try not to go there.


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