To View or Not To View

I was seven years old the first time I saw a dead body.  My paternal grandmother had had a heart attack.  She lived in Missouri and we lived in New Mexico.  My parents loaded my sister and I into the car and we left as it was getting dark.

Usually when we traveled we would leave as it was getting light. So as we set out, it had a bit of adventure to it.  And not for the first or last time, my dad had to tell me, “Laura, be quiet and go to sleep.”

I do not remember how long my grandmother was in the hospital.  This was during a time when children were not allowed in.  So those of us too young, had endless days of passing time, waiting for adults to get home to give us a report.

I complained to my mother that I wanted to see my grandmother.  My mother replied, that grandmother had just come out for a visit and I should be happy with that.  It was not the same thing.

For the next time I saw my grandmother was at the funeral.  At the appointed time, we got in line and walked past the casket. Even with my limited knowledge of death, I could tell that my grandmother was not there.  This was just a body.  And it looked sad and forlorn.  I did not know where my grandmother was, I just knew she was not here.

We didn’t have a viewing for Gpa, he wants to be cremated. At least one friend has expressed sorrow for not being able to see him one last time and I am sorry for that.  I hope the posters with his pictures and time spent talking about him will help ease her grief.

I did see him one last time.  I wasn’t expecting to have to look at him when I went to the funeral home.  But I guess they needed to verify they were going to be cremating the right body.  (Like how many bodies did I have at my house?)

They were so busy, they asked if I would be OK viewing him in the make up area, which was right there as you stepped off the elevator.  I didn’t want to wait for a room to open up.  I had already be there much longer than I thought I would.

Yes, it was him.  Or more specifically, it was his body.  He was not there.  It was sad to look at him.  He didn’t have his hat (cap) on his head.  I can’t remember the last time I shaved him so he had a scraggily beard.  And his face was gaunt, full of angles.

Maybe it would have been better to let others see he isn’t here. And to say good-bye.  Hopefully the celebration helped.

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  • letstalkaboutfamily  On January 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I didn’t do a viewing for mom either and won’t for dad. I want to remember them as they were when alive and well. This is a difficult time for you and you seem to be holding up well. Take care of yourself too.

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