A Dummie’s Guide to Death

Today I attended a … I was going to say funeral, but I don’t think it was the actual funeral. It wasn’t a service either, although it took place in a church. The obituary said only that the family would be receiving visitors. My friend’s mother had died, so I went to pay my respects.

I don’t do death very well. I don’t understand the etiquette. I had to ask my manager at work — who, unfortunately, has been attending quite a few funerals lately — what I should do, what was expected. Do I bring flowers? Do I send flowers? Isn’t there some flora involved in this somehow?

There are regional differences and cultural expectations and I just don’t know what they are. I need a Dummie’s Guide to Death

I dressed in black, expecting to find a room full of mourning Catholics, but people were talking and laughing and greeting old friends. My friend looked positively radiant. She had moved in with her mother several weeks ago, knowing that the end was near. They played bridge and watched TV together and, to hear her tell it, had a wonderful time.

As she described to me being with her 80 year old mother as she stopped breathing, I could only be impressed by the awesome cycle of birth to passing. When a baby is born, the mother breathes rapidly and frantically, then everyone holds their own breath until the baby draws her own. At the end of the mother’s life, that child holds her mother’s hand, waiting for her last breath. Breath to Death.

I won’t be at the mass. I’m sure it will be lovely. All that fuss makes me uncomfortable. When my time comes, I hope that I can just put down my pen, push away from my desk, and quietly slip out the back door.

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