Monday, July 1, 2013

I definitely don't want fries with that

Well here's a topic I never thought I'd be writing about... Drive-thru funeral viewings. I'm going to go ahead and assume you have the same bewildered look on your face that I did when I first heard about this.

Oliver & Eggleston Funeral Establishment in Farmville, VA is now offering an option where families can placed the body of their loved one by a large window so that people can drive by and pay their respects from the comfort of their car.
“You can stay in your car and ride by this window, see your loved one–also see when the place and time of service is going to be held, on this board here–without leaving your car,” Eggleston said
 Please excuse me if this sounds insensitive, but how lazy have we become! We have drive-thru
restaurants, drive-thru coffee and doughnuts, drive-thru beer stores, and now drive-thru viewings!? Personally, I am not a fan of the drive-thru in general. Being able bodied, I feel like I'm being lazy if I drive up to a window to order from my car when I could easily walk inside instead. I'm not sure I buy the time savings much either. On the odd occasion when I have fast food, I've felt like the service speed of the drive-thru vs the inside was pretty comparable. So that leaves the time walking to and from my car as the only real difference. I've been in a hurry just as much as the next guy, but if I'm stopping someplace at all, that means that the one or two minute difference isn't going to be a matter of life and death.

Speaking of death, lets return to the topic of this blog... The drive-thru viewing is supposed marketed as being for the elderly, and in cases of inclement weather. I'm not sure I buy these reasons though. If your so elderly that you can't walk from the car to the chapel, then what are you doing walking from your house to your car and driving all the way there. After completing 99.9% of the journey to get there, how does the walk for the car to the chapel now become an unassailable obstacle?

The same issue is true of inclement weather. Say there is a snow storm... You get in your car, drive there and after braving the conditions, just roll buy the window and wave to the departed? You've already done the hard part of driving through the weather, so why can't you walk the handful of steps inside? What if it's rain? You just don't want to walk and get a little wet? Seems a bit selfish to me that you would hold not getting wet of higher import than going in to pay your respects and wish the family well.

That reminds me of another issue. The viewing isn't just about seeing the dead body of a family member or friend, and saying some final words. It is also a time to comfort their family for their loss. How are you supposed to do that if you are just driving by a window? Why even bother stopping by at all?

All that said, I think that the biggest question should be, 'When it comes to death, why do we still have viewings as we do?' I've covered death somewhat before, but lets look at the specifics from the angle of this particular discussion. I actually find that we continue this expensive process of grieving that I feel could be handled much better. Why construct this somber situation where we have a dead body lying there as a constant reminder that this person is dead. I hate that these occasions become focused on the persons death, rather than the life they lived.

In my case, I don't want my eventual death to be a somber occasion. Understandably, and family that I leave behind will likely be upset and distraught. But is the answer to those feelings a funeral system that constantly reminds you 'he's dead, he's dead, he'd dead, he'd dead'? In my case I will be cremated after science has used my flesh for learning and research. I do not wish to be stuck in a hole in the ground. I feel that would be a waste of money. I will be no more, so what happens to my ashes is really no concern of mine. But I don't wish anyone left behind to have to incur financial hardships in order to deal with my remains... Although my wife's quip that she's going to launch me into space does sound rather awesome. Return to the stars from whence I came and all. I find it rather poetic.

So no actual funeral for me, and no traditional viewing either. I don't want there to be a gathering where those I knew in life gather about my urn and weep and focus on my death. What would I like? Perhaps my urn can be there, but I'd rather there just be a happy portrait of me placed upon an easel. Instead of sobbing condolences, I want it instead to be an occasion of reminiscing. Family and friends gathering together, open bar and food provided. Sharing stories and laughs of a life (hopefully) well lived. After all, I had the privilege to lead a life filled with love, learning, experiences and memories that I am happy to have made. I'd rather be proud and grateful for the life I lived, rather than be somber that it had to come to an end.

But yesterday I was informed of one of those ends. My one Uncle sadly passed yesterday afternoon. After a recent history of two strokes, he again found himself in the hospital. He seemed like himself one moment, then the next he was gone. Exactly what happened is not yet known to me, but while I know he will be missed, I also feel a small but of relief for him. He'll no longer have to live a compromised life due to his medical issues. I know it would drive me crazy if medical reasons forced me to sit about just about all the time. But he got to live a good life in his time. Worked a job that he enjoyed for the love of it. He found love, when he met and married my Aunt. They had a daughter that I know that he loved. I will remember day in my youth (before we moved away) where we would visit and play with my cousin. Talk with my Aunt, and my Uncle would be the comic relief, doing his best Three Stooges impersonations. The fond memories are what I will choose to remember, rather than the cold fact of his sudden absence.

I'm sure there will be a viewing and conventional funeral. I know my Aunt and cousin will be missing him and possibly still in shock. For their benefit, I just hope that they can focus on the happy fact that he lived, loved, and spent the great portion of his life in theirs, rather than that he is now gone. But those questions will be answered in due time...

-Brain Hulk

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