I understand the tradition of having the body at the funeral. I also understand how an “open casket” that cradles that body might help in the grieving process.
However, I personally don’t want mine there (not that I’ll have a vote when the final decision is made). As a professional minister, I would also never encourage anyone to include the body.
Several years ago, I asked Facebook friends about whether or not the deceased’s body should “attend” the funeral. Joy Wheland Cole (whose husband was a pastor) responded with,
After kissing my cold, embalmed parents and realizing they weren’t there, I decided cremation was much more helpful in realizing the finality of the death. My husband was cremated and I truly found more comfort in seeing the urn than seeing my parents’ embalmed bodies!!
Cole’s response invites a key question: what will bring the living comfort? I would add:
- What were the wishes of the deceased?
- Do any religious or family traditions influence the decision?
- If a family has conflicts about having/not having the body present, are they avoiding other issues? For example, what if tension between the deceased’s second spouse and the stepchildren isn’t about the body (safer to debate) but about old hurts or a new inheritance (things complicated to be honest about)?
Whatever the living decide about the dead, it’s far better if there were open discussions about dying and death beforehand. That’s easier to suggest than accomplish. Many avoid talking about death, treating it like the plague, an embarrassment, an inconvenience, or only happening to others. Even we modern remain strangely superstitious about mortality. If we mention death, won’t death happen? Or if I encourage discussion about having or not having the beloved’s body present, will my family dismiss me as morbid or inappropriate? Read More →by