Waiting on death and other such rituals

I am no expert on death, dying or funerals. I am a Sociologist at heart and curious as all get out about the roots of these practices and the variety across cultures.

A few years back my cousin and I mused about the death and dying rituals of African Americans. I’ve never studied the phenomenon but know the rituals well from first-hand experience. She and I were chastised as her dad, my great uncle was in hospice. We went out to eat one night, another night we went to the movies, by day 10 we had left the hospital during the day and gone off to explore the Mall of the Americas.

Shame on us! We were supposed to sit all day and night with the relatives keeping watch at uncle’s bedside. She, like my mom and I often buck tradition and go with what is respectful, comfortable, and fits who we are. Why were we (and often still are) expected to sit at the bedside and wait….?

This week I’ve been on death-watch, which is highly impractical with a 3.5 year old. Really it is. So….we went to the Children’s Museum…that didn’t make some people too happy. But really? You expect a 3 year old to sit and watch granny fade away. He can only touch her face, sing her a song, and whisper “I love you granny” but a few times. He’s 3 for God’s sake! AND momma needs a break.

In some  cultures, families pay people to do their death-watching and their mourning. That’s sounding good right about now.

Everyone mourns differently. Everyone has a different level of comfort with and tolerance for death and dying. My mom had zero tolerance nor comfort. She missed her dad’s, mom’s and the above mentioned uncle’s funeral. Friends of hers who died earlier in life received cards and flowers, but no visit. No one ever chastised or questioned her. She sat at no one’s bedside. She would have paid someone to do it for her!

So I am sitting. And since I’m sandwiched between death and an energetic 3 year old, I am also not sitting, watching, nor waiting. For no one knows the hour nor the day….who’s the ritual for anyway? I didn’t even get to write about the family arguments over open or closed casaket; burial vs. cremation; or celebration of life or mourning of death….not to mention who’s family plot to bury the dead in. Ive always said thst births, marriages, & deaths cause confusion!

Death & dying rituals have an important place in our society and families AND room should be made to alter such rituals as needed.


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