“Ring Around the Rosy” was a way to introduce kids to death, after all.
Sometimes, I wonder why I feel so comfortable in a funeral home. I mean, if you stop and think about it, it’s kind of against nature. Last time I checked, I thought that everything revolved around “survival of the fittest”. Isn’t that what the Hunger Games are about? I don’t know. I haven’t read the books yet. But I thought mentioning a trending topic would get my blog bonus points. I hope it worked.
My Aunt and late Uncle own a funeral home. I think I’ve said this before. If you asked my professional opinion I would conclude that the amount of time I spent in a funeral home at a ripe young age influenced my feeling towards them and death. My Aunt lives in one of her funeral homes. Seriously. The front of the building is the chapel, and if you walk all the way to the back there are a set of doors. Open those doors and you’re in her kitchen. I think it’s extremely convenient. I drive a half hour to work everyday. Think of all that saved gas money. But let’s move on.
Because my Aunt lives in her funeral home, when I was young and would visit her she would take me into the Chapel and let me look at her guest who was renting the room for the night. My dad kind of thought it was funny. I kind of thought it was neat. If you ever wanted to know the source of my “funeral-ness” look no further than these two. They messed me up for life. But seriously, I also don’t think I could thank them enough.
I think I was six, when my mother’s best friend’s father died. I never knew the guy. I just remember crying because I wanted to go to the funeral and she wouldn’t let me. My mom told me that funerals weren’t happy, and I’d have to go to plenty of them in my lifetime. Mama knows best, you know. But it was too late. That’s so sad if you think about it. I was so young, it’s like I never had a chance. I wanted to be around the funeral home. I couldn’t quite grasp the total concept of death, but seeing a body lying in the casket, that was normal. I saw that all the time. I also never knew the dead people, so I never had the grief aspect. That made it easy for me. My grandfather passing away was my first real interaction with death. I was twelve. I was there when he was dying. I didn’t know it at the time. Studying Embalming in school eight years later I was able to realize it. I literally witnessed his body shutting down. I wasn’t there when he took his last breath. I’m thankful for that. It was so uncomfortable for me, to be there when he was so close to the end. But I was able to be there. I fully believe that my contact with the funeral home prior to this experience allowed me to have some final moments with him. After all, I was only twelve. When I saw him in his casket. That was familiar. I sometimes wonder how I would have reacted if it wouldn’t have been so familiar. Would I have been able to be in the room for the wake? Would I have been able to be there at all? I don’t know. I’ll never know.
I have an older brother. He doesn’t like dead people or funeral homes. He also never visited my Aunt’s guests like I did with my father. I think that says a lot. I fully one hundred percent believe that children should come into the funeral home no matter what age. I hate when parents try to shelter them from death. It’s a part of life. That’s like sheltering them from the rain. It happens. It’s going to continue to happen. You can’t stop it. Death isn’t a bad thing, you know. It’s just a sad thing. I believe that by allowing children to come into the funeral home and physically seeing a dead person, well that’s just going to help them. Because one day, that child is going to be an adult. And they are going to lose people they love. You don’t want them to be that awkward adult in the funeral home, do you? With nothing else to offer a grieving family other than “I’m sorry”. Or even worse. By not being allowed at a young age to experience death, have no idea to even approach it when they lose someone. Not even being able to make arrangements, or acknowledge it. Denial is no fun.
Now, after saying what I’ve said I have one more thing to add. Parents, you need to watch your children and teach them respect and how to act in a funeral home. It is not a playground. Funeral Directors are not babysitters. This means that you do not bring your children with you, shove them into a room where no one is and go and socialize with your friends. Because your children will become animals. They will run around and be loud. They will push all of my buttons until I yell at them, and I don’t like to yell. Tell them what a funeral is. Tell them it is a quiet place, and a sad place, but also a happy place. It’s sad because we’re separated from someone we love, but it’s happy because we can remember all the good times we’ve had with them. You don’t yell in a funeral home and you don’t run. You show respect and if Aunt Ann wants to kiss your check you let her and you smile. If they want to touch the deceased let them. Don’t tell them they’re sleeping. Be honest. If you do all of these things you will prepare them more than you know. They will thank you. I thank my father for thinking it was funny that I wanted to see a dead person. I thank him for encouraging me to see them. I thank my Aunt for living in her funeral home and making seeing a dead person a fairly easy event. If they never did that I might not have gone to mortuary school. If I never went to mortuary school I would have never have all these insightful ideas. If I never had all these insightful ideas I’d never have a blog. Admit it, you’d be a little sad if there was no Little Miss Funeral, wouldn’t you?