Thursday, April 9, 2009

Preparing the Dead Before a Wake and Funeral (Video 6:00)

As a child growing up in New Orleans, I looked forward to going to open-casket wakes at funeral homes. I felt good about wakes, not because I found them entertaining, but because I appreciated the seriousness and empathy of the rituals. This excerpt from my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes, describes my experience, which motivated me to write this post about one form of preparation of the dead.

“Viewers sat in rows of chairs facing the casket and softly talked among themselves. This time together was a reunion for them as well as a time to discuss how the body was dressed and “fixed up” with cosmetics. I had no idea that many people had wakes with closed caskets, no funerals at all, and that death rituals were performed in different ways among various cultures and religions. Comments about the deceased wearing a smile, looking peaceful, or appearing to be asleep were considered good compliments.”

© Frances Shani Parker

I never thought about the people who were involved in preparing the body in such a way that we would be more likely to think the deceased looked content. This video gave me a general understanding of what actually goes on behind the scenes at a funeral home.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

1 comment:

  1. When a distant relative, acquaintance, coworker, or friend’s family member passes, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not to attend the wake. But this is an opportunity to show respect and love for the deceased.