My grandparents worked at a funeral home, but even after that upbringing, and thirty years of doing funerals myself, I still find funeral homes incredibly strange.
Yesterday my family did funeral preparations for mother’s service. The mortician was very nice but I kept looking around the room at the strange paraphernalia of his trade. There was a lock box that mounted on the inside of the casket so family members could file important documents for safe keeping, presumably so the deceased could refer to them later. I wondered if the deceased would get to have a key to the lock box, and whether thieves after bothering to dig six feet through the ground to open the casket, would not think to look in the pockets.
I also marvel at the decorations of most funeral homes. They usually look like the stereotype of a brothel in a movie about the wild west. They usually sport garish wallpaper, chairs that do not match, invasive potpourri and paintings that look like they were pulled from a dumpster.
I am glad the family has decided not to do a viewing of mom’s body. Whenever someone leans over the casket, looks into the waxy face of a embalmed body and says, “she looks like she’s asleep,” I always think to myself, “No, she looks like a fricking candle.”
I have to think the artificiallity of our funeral customs plays a role in our cultural fear of death. Perhaps if we saw our own deaths as part of life, the self-described “home of the brave” would not waste all of our resources on defense and wet ourselves every time another nation wants the same weapons we have pointing at them. If throughout life we could remember that our bodies come from and return to the earth, perhaps death might not seem like such a terrifying travesty.