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For most of my adult life I have been aware that my Dad didn’t want a funeral.  Or a memorial.  My Mom never wanted a ‘viewing’ or an open casket.  I was okay with all that, I agreed that ‘viewings’ were morbid affairs.  I thought that funerals were an unnecessary expense, I mean, ashes to ashes and all that, why go to the fuss and bother of a big send-off?  But now I’m not so sure.

My aunt woke me up at 6:00 am last Thursday and told me that Dad had passed.  My youngest brother was there that night to help with Dad.  We called my sister to let her know.  I had to wake Mom and tell her that Dad was gone.  My little brother went to his ex-wife’s house to pick up his daughter.  We all sat in the living room with Dad’s body until I called hospice about 8.  We said our goodbyes, we shared some memories.  The hospice nurse showed up about 8:30 and went about her business.  She notified the body farm.  She left.  The mortuary that collects the remains for the farm showed up about 10.  They were very respectful and very efficient and they had Dad ready to go by 10:30.

I imagine that everybody that goes through this process finds this moment, the quiet men in black suits and rubber gloves, the deceased wrapped in a shroud, the gurney being rolled out the front door, emotionally devastating.  But for me and my family this was it.  Our last goodbyes were said, Dad was gone and never to be seen again.  Most people have a few days to process the grief from death to final goodbye; we had 4 1/2 hours. 

Maybe it’s the same regardless.  4 days or 4 hours, would I have ever had been ready to say that last goodbye?  Would seeing Dad for the last time in a casket been any better than on that gurney?   Maybe the 3 or 4 days between death and funeral give us time to decompress, to prepare mentally to let go.  I knew for the two weeks prior that this moment was coming, but you’re still not ready when it actually comes.  The finality is unexpected.  To deal with that in 4 hours, that was tough.  By 2 o’clock that afternoon the hospital bed had been picked up and the couch was brought back in from the garage.  The walker and wheel chair had been put away.  The last load of laundry with my Dad’s clothes had been done.  His meds were destroyed (hospice rules).  His ashtrays and coffee mugs were cleaned and put up.  All that was left were the memories.  In 6 hours.  It was, and still is, surreal.

I used to think I knew how I wanted my end-of-life arrangements handled.  Now I’m not so sure.  Funerals and memorials aren’t for the dead, they’re for the living.

To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead. — Samuel Butler



  1. I never thought of it this way. Thanks for sharing even though I’m sure it was difficult for you. *more hugs*

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Everyone says their goodbyes and farewells in a different way. Some people the funerals and “Viewings” help them with closure and the finality of it. Their is no set way to grieve, i think grieving is necessary helps deal with your feelings. You have memories of your father though which to most memories are enough…

  3. It’s hard to fully prepare for something like this. I’ll continue to keep you and your family in my prayers.

    I have an idea you might want to consider, if appropriate. After my dad died, my sister took nine of his flannel shirts (obviously, he wore them often) and took them to a woman who made teddy bears from shirts. My sister presented them to us at Christmas; we each got to choose our favorite. The price was something like $30 each. Just something to consider.

  4. M. – I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I talked with Gary and Nancy and made sure they both had written instructions for S and me for when they passed. I still don’t think I will ever be able to completely prepare myself for that day. If you want to talk I can forward you my number. Times like this have me thinking about how much I miss having family close.


  5. M — your post really touched me. i keep thinking about your “love is … ” post about your dad and your mom. that was so beautiful .. truly an amazing example to me. thank you for sharing these moments and feelings. and your quote at the end was good, i really liked the last part of it.

    each of us leaves a legacy in the hearts and memories of those we impact throughout our journey through this life.

    blessings and peace, beany


  6. A service’s main purpose is for the living. You can have coffee with people who loved your father and reap the benefits of sharing love and memories without calling it a service.

  7. M ~ hope you and your family are doing okay. blessings, beany

  8. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Thanks for sharing this part of the grieving process with us.

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