day 3: the viewing

Saturday Mom and I stayed home all morning and afternoon. My oldest nephew had to referee two soccer games in the late morning, and afterwards my sister took him to the funeral home, so that he could see “the remains” on his own before the viewing and visitation scheduled that evening.

The viewing for friends of the family was scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m.; the family went down early, around 6, to have some time alone before people started arriving. Unfortunately, people started arriving by 6:30 and we didn’t really have a chance to organize ourselves first into a receiving line. Suddenly there was a crowd of people and we were inundated; Mom and I were both at the front of the room, near the casket, but about ten feet away from her. We were so surrounded by people that it took me ten to fifteen minutes to get back to her; I got her a chair, but she never really had a chance to sit, as people kept pulling her up and into hugs. And the tide of people kept sweeping me away from her again and again.

It was really rather a brutal experience, and part of the entire death/funeral process the value of which I don’t entirely appreciate. While I understand that people who knew my father needed a chance to see him and grieve, and to tell us about him and to express their love and condolences, there’s almost a cruelty done to the family, keeping the emotional wound very open and raw; the visitors get to come in, say their piece, and leave, but we were faced with such raw emotion again and again and again, and never really were able to get in touch with our own. It was one of the most emotionally exhausting experiences I’ve been through; by 8:30, we were all aching both physically and emotionally. By the time we got home that evening, a part of me just wanted to scream to all the visitors to get out of the house.

In fact, we almost never had any time to ourselves. Family and friends would start arriving as early as 8 or 9 a.m. and there would still be people at the house as late as midnight or 1 a.m. By the end of the weekend I found myself torn between wanting to remain there with my mom and the rest of the family and coming home to my quiet condo where I could finally hear my own thoughts and feel my own emotions, rather than constantly listening to other people talk and reacting to their feelings.