Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Take on Etiquette for Funerals in My Hometown....

Friday, March 18, 2011......



This weekend my sister, YogaGirl, is coming into town for a wake and funeral. I'm going to the wake (note: the person that passed away lived a very full and long life) with her, but not the funeral. However, although my sister is 4 years older, I've attended far more wakes and funerals than she has and had to verse her on how wakes/funeral roll in our town.

When I was telling my sister my etiquette when it comes to attending wakes and funerals, I realized how truly odd and bizarrely funny my hometown is when handling death....

Let me explain... Our town has divided itself into 3 funeral homes: one for the Italians, one which the Irish use, and a Polish funeral home(although the Polish one was purchased in the past few years by the Italian one). My sister didn't know this and found this really funny when I explained it to her. I guess I never really thought how strange it sounded until she started laughing. For me, I just knew this because of all the wakes I've attended at these funeral homes. My Italian friends would never think of using the Irish funeral home and vice versa. Personally, I'm French Canadian and would hope that my ethnicity wouldn't deny me entry into any of the homes (oh wait, I live in an entirely different town now and don't have to worry about this strange admission procedure).

Once we got passed this topic of where the wake was going to be held, we discussed my take on how to go to a wake properly. My wake etiquette is as follows:

1) I try to go early so I don't have to participate in the prayer part of the wake, if Catholic, this can go on-and-on if the priest is chatty (don't laugh, I've been tortured at a wake where the priest's prayer went on for the last hour of the wake - and it was boring and had nothing to do with the person).

2) I never know how long you linger at the casket, so I devised the following plan: I kneel, close eyes, clasp hands and say the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers. I figure this is enough time at the casket. Also, I never really know what to think once I'm kneeling and openly admit that in the past, I've giggled or conjured up my to-do list for later. I figure this could be wrong and might not sit well with the guy up above.

3) The volume of your voice should be the same volume you would use in a library. It's just that simple.

4) If you attend a wake at the Italian funeral parlor, most people will go out for pizza down the block.

Other things I had to tell my sister -- Yes, most people go to the graveside service after the funeral. No food and drink are served after the wake (actually, I think my exact words were: there is no tray service at the wake) and when she goes to the graveside, she'll be putting a flower on the casket.

Over the years, I've gone to numerous wakes and funerals, but the best and funniest wake story I have involved my mother. The scene: mom and I attended my neighbor's wake. She was a woman 30 years my senior who had a long life, but very ill at the end and seen better days. We both go up to the casket, pay our respects, and within seconds of moving away from the casket, my mother turns to me and tells me how pretty I am. I look at her with disbelief that she'd pick this moment to tell me I'm pretty. I wanted to laugh, but waited until I relayed this story to my sisters before laughing over the irony of the compliment. I mean, I hope I looked better at that moment than the dead woman in the casket.

14 comments:

Matty said...

Communities do have strong ethnic backgrounds, and as funny as this all is, your 'protocol' doesn't surprise me. Everyone has their way of doing things. For me, at a funeral, I stay quiet and keep a low profile. (Sort of like practicing for when it's me)

Little Ms Blogger said...

Matty - if you don't keep a low profile at your own wake, I think you'll hear a lot of voices that will be louder than a whisper...

Brian Miller said...

bet that pizza is good...for me the best part is the breaking of bread together afterward...lets faceit it can be awkward but food helps with the tension...

Patience said...

Funerals/Wakes all creep me out. I over analyze everything and I am literally counting down the seconds to make my escape. I hate them.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

To be fair, you were probably more lively too! :)

I'm firmly in the camp where I think funerals should be celebrations. No black clothing, no utter solemnity. Just crying, drinking, dancing, celebrating.

Little Ms Blogger said...

Brian - I'm impressed you have the energy to make bread after a wake or funeral.

Patience - I would be creeped out if I over analyzed the whole concept of death, so I think about everything but that at one.

Veg Ass - I wouldn't make that assumption :-), but you're right, I was, and still, a bit more lively than her.

Mandy's Kidding said...

I haven't gone to all that many funerals myself. But I definitely don't go near an open casket. I haven't noticed if there's any correlation between funeral homes and ethnicity here. Hm.

Little Ms Blogger said...

mandy - bet the next time you go to one you'll remember this post.

Joanna Jenkins said...

I know I should be laughing about funerals and wakes but the pizza afterward absolutely cracked me up.

Have a great weekend, jj

Spot said...

I hate it when people file past the open casket and say "Oh! She looks so good." Really?! How bad do you have to look before you die that you look good in comparison at your funeral?? I have given strict orders that there will be a closed casket at my wake.

I once wrote an article about appropriate funeral dress for a client that sells burial vaults. Weird, huh?

♥Spot

Sandra said...

At least your mom told you you were pretty! Take it and run, right!
Thank you for versing me as well in wake/funeral etiquette. The only memorial service I have ever attended was my father's and I basically kept my eyes closed the whole time until it was over. I'm told it was lovely.

maria.palermo said...

LMB, you nailed it in terms of the procedures of attending wakes and funerals and so true about our hometown parlors, albeit, being Italian, I'm not too fond of the two that caters to my people!

Joanne said...

It's true, the heritage divide. I see that often here, with different ethnic neighborhoods, stores, etc. It gives a great variety to our towns :)

Dan said...

Here there are just two funeral homes - so the divisions are even starker and odder.

Very few wakes, but a lot of "viewings" and services. The main tradition that seems to cross all ethnic and cultural lines is the post funeral meal open to all. It even leads to the naming of dishes like "funeral potatoes".