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Mar. 1st, 2004

I think I understand the concept of a wake now. It always mystified me a little - it just sounded depressing. Gather together with everyone and be sad? That's what the funeral/memorial is for, I always thought.

I chatted with Melissa on IM for a while tonight. We talked about planning to attend the memorial service, and about our guilt at not visiting. I pointed her here to my LJ. We talked about cats and candles, for such things are important (Cabbages and kings, not so much).

And after a while, Melissa said she felt less alone. I agreed. It's silly for either of us to feel alone. I've had everyone offer support (which I do appreciate). She's had that as well, and she's living in the same house as her mother, who must surely be experiencing similar feelings. But it's still not quite the same. Both of us felt a little better for knowing that there was someone else who understood, who had nearly the same relationship to Wayne, who was feeling precisely the same way.

I think that must be what it's all about.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
amy_pearlman
Mar. 2nd, 2004 04:44 am (UTC)
Actually, that's mostly what the Jewish concept of Shivva is for -- gathering together to remember the dead well and support the family and friends who remain...a time of coming together. It can last up to 7 days, but it tends to be very healthy, and since the immediate family isn't supposed to do anything really, it means that they have to take time to grieve and talk to people, instead of burying and ignoring all the grief in entertaining.

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Actually, that's mostly what the Jewish concept of Shivva is for -- gathering together to remember the dead well and support the family and friends who remain...a time of coming together. It can last up to 7 days, but it tends to be very healthy, and since the immediate family isn't supposed to do anything really, it means that they have to take time to grieve and talk to people, instead of burying and ignoring all the grief in entertaining.

<fair warning, possible depressing pondering>
Wakes make less sense to me because, although it may sound horrible to say, it's hard to have that feeling of rememberance and have that healthy seperation with a body in the room (which is the way every wake I've been to works unless there are some kind of special circumstances). I understand some people need to say goodbye, but I've always wanted to remember people as they were alive.

<a href="http://allaboutirish.com/library/customs/wakes.shtm">Irish wakes</a>, the (to my knowledge) original form of wakes, are a bit different and not so somber an occasion...it has a somber element with a celebratory element as well...(a little drunken, generally, but still emotional and cathartic) but most things Americans call wakes (or viewings) are a far different tradition -- so reserved. Americans (American Christians, really) seem to feel that they should not mix happy memory and community with grief, and although I grew up that way, I don't understand it. I don't think most people would tell you they think the deceased would want you to be unhappy -- no, they'd rather look down and see their friends sharing fond memory and holding the deceased in their heats. There is sadness, but there is also the process of having your life go on without that person's living presence, and that pretty much requires you being able to keep those things about the person that have value to you with you....

My dad is a counselor, a grief specialist. I've discussed this with him, and I still don't get it.

Anyway, that's my ponderings....not sure what it says, but yes, I think that time with friends who hold the person close has a lot of value... *hug*

A
turtle_morn
Mar. 2nd, 2004 12:11 pm (UTC)
There are very few real Irish wakes left at this point. The Irish wakes I've been to are like the rest of the wakes I've been to. They let people be together in a less formal way than a memorial, and they let people take care of the immediate family. Many of the wakes I've been to, many people don't go into the room with the body, but sit with the family, telling stories, and listening. It's an important thing to do, whenever you do it.
ourika
Mar. 2nd, 2004 03:31 pm (UTC)
I've never been to a wake before.

However, I know that at my mom's whole memorial service deal, the "best" part of it was hanging out at my sister's house chatting and drinking coffee. We weren't doing the whole ceremony, and nobody expected anything except coffee in large abundance.

That and the trip to the bar after all the family members had left - those were the two parts that were the least difficult and made the most sense. We sat around and chatted about stuff - some memories, some stuff about her, and some other non-related stuff.

I've never been to a wake, but I assume it's the same idea - sit around and chat with people.

But I don't know if a wake is before or after a funeral/memorial service.
amy_pearlman
Mar. 2nd, 2004 11:18 pm (UTC)
In my experience, usually before (and by the history of the tradition it should be -- it's actually a kind of partially macabre tradition, historically as the name might suggest). A lot of times wakes and viewings are refferred to as the same thing. Sometimes they work the same way, sometimes not, depend on the family's understanding of those terms.

A memorial service can be any time from before the funeral, to months or years after.

Whichever you observe, the community and the shared memory is the importance. As I've told people before, I love the shivva tradition, just for tht reason.
ourika
Mar. 2nd, 2004 11:32 pm (UTC)

I was thinking about this a little more after the most recent posts here, and I remembered that better than the service, cake/coffee afterwards, or trip to the local bar, my sister and I went with my aunt to spend an evening at my Grandma’s house.

We sat around and chatted about mom (during which time Grandma got up a few times to leave the room, but by the end of the evening, she wasn’t needing to leave anymore which was really good). We went through photos of her and of other people. We made-up the photo boards and talked about which colors she would have liked best. We giggled over how mom would have thought that it was so totally beautiful and she’d have cried her eyes out over all the “trouble” we put into her.

That was the best. Just hanging out and talking about her. Oddly enough, Steph, it sounds like you and Rimwic had a similar conversation online the other night, just talking about how you feel and what type of person Wayne was. Discussing the strangeness of how you feel about his death, etc. It sounded like a really helpful conversation, and I’m glad that you got the chance to talk with her like that.

(PS: Amy, I really wouldn’t have wanted to do that for seven days – sitting shiva would probably drive me batty.)
amy_pearlman
Mar. 3rd, 2004 01:23 am (UTC)
Most shivvas these days are 3 days -- I think Craig's uncle, who is very very religious, only sat 4 or 5 days for his son.

And it's people in and out all the time, and all different people -- it's a great time for reunion. There's food in and out all the time (because you send or bring a gift of food to a Jewish shivva, you never send flowers). It's not one group of people having the same conversation over and over -- everybody catches up with everyone else...
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