Twinkle Lights and Tombstones

It’s Advent, when we focus on preparing for the birth of our Lord, for life and light. And yet, just a few weeks after Christmas, we will spend our weeks following that same Jesus through the darkest days of betrayal, suffering, abandonment, death. The story has a happy ending, of course, but life and death, they walk hand in hand, and the Church keeps that reality ever in the forefront of our minds. Do you find that morbid, a constant consideration of death? Some people do. I think, though, that it helps us to keep our eyes and our hearts firmly fixed on this present moment, for tomorrow is not promised to us. It’s a gift when it arrives, but it is in no way assured. When I send my girls out into the world in the morning, I say, “I love you, drive safely, and I hope you have a lovely day,” and then again, “I love you!” I want that to be the last thing we have between us, just in case. No angry words or hurt feelings, just the joy of loving and being loved.

We bought this in Germany our very last Christmas there. It has suffered mightily for all its traveling, but I still love it so!

We bought this in Germany our very last Christmas there. It has suffered mightily for all its traveling, but I still love it so!

More practically speaking, though, it’s kind of fun to plan your funeral. Are we the only ones who do that? It’s dinner conversation around here. Funny dinner conversation. I suspect this will be a benefit to the children in the long run because:

  • they are aware that we are indeed going to die at some undisclosed and probably unexpected time, and that reality won’t take them by surprise;
  • they’ll have learned that death is a natural part of life and nothing to fear or worry over; and
  • they’ll know just what to do for us when the time comes, because we already laughed and chatted about what they need and what we need.

But that’s just how we are.  We don’t shy away from the hard things.

So, when I go, I don’t want a wake. That’s kind of a creepy custom. Just skip right to the funeral Mass. I want to be buried, not cremated, because in some places, the cemetery is the only green space left, and I’d like to contribute to a greener world. Don’t spend a lot of money on my casket, but do have those Gregorian Masses said for me. I’ll make it easy and prepay for them; all you have to do is mail back the card when I die. I haven’t decided yet, though, on my epitaph. Have you? I have a fondness for walking through cemeteries, reading the headstones and inventing stories for the people buried there based on the inscriptions, and I figure it’ll be my last message to the world. I want to make it count. And if there is a particular thing of mine you’d like to have to remember me by, let me know.

Tommy is pretty fond of it, too! The heat from the candles makes the fan spin, which makes the wise men spin dizzily about the Holy Family. What's not to love?

Tommy is pretty fond of it, too! The heat from the candles makes the fan turn, which makes the wise men spin dizzily about the Holy Family. What’s not to love?

I know this isn’t your typical Advent fare, but, hey, it’s what I was thinking of, and I’m not always seasonally appropriate. :-)

So how about you? Have you discussed your probable death with your children? Have you decided upon your epitaph?  And how do you feel about wakes, and especially the open casket?

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8 thoughts on “Twinkle Lights and Tombstones

  1. Anne

    As usual, I can’t resist commenting. ;o)

    We talk about death fairly often around here, though not about planning our funerals. Maybe we will as the kids get older? My mom definitely has her funeral all planned and has told me where to find the folder. I did tell the kids when we went to visit my grandpa’s grave on Day of the Dead that they should definitely come have a party at my grave and pray for my soul every year on All Soul’s Day. I added that they could pray for my soul everyday, even if they only had a party once a year!

    I think it is a good healthy thing to talk about regularly, but I do have one anxious little one. She’s always been a bit more anxious than the others, but after my grandpa died last year and she saw him in the coffin (at the wake…maybe we should skip those!), she’s been more vocal in her worry that I’ll die before she’s ready for me to die. I always just put it back in God’s hands. I don’t promise I’ll be here forever, but I do tell her that God will only take each of us when it’s time for us to go and that the rest of us will then have His strength to bear the missing.

    Good post, seasonal or not!

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cooper Post author

      Great handling of your little one’s anxiety; that’s what I say, too! We’re all going to die, it’s all in God’s hands. No need to worry about it, but don’t be afraid of it, either. :-)

      And I love when you comment! What’s the point of blogging without the relationships forged in the combox? :-)

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  2. Jennie Cooper Post author

    I was just thinking: it’s probably not a good idea to take children to a wake. No need to look death right in the face, you know? I think it’s a strange and creepy tradition, and I’m all grown up. It’s probably quite terrifying for a young child! The closed-casket funeral service will suffice for them. :-)
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  3. Michelle Reitemeyer

    I’ve taken my kids to several wakes, mostly closed casket. We talk about praying for the dead. I once saw a wake in the main church, not in a funeral home. They prayed the rosary for the dead girl; she was 17 or 18, I think. Car accident, she was at fault, and killed a friend or two as well. Very sad. But I liked having it in the church, because it was more solemn, and I liked having the rosary prayed for her soul’s repose. I hope people pray the rosary for me when I die. Masses, too, of course, but the rosary is more personal.
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  4. Barbara

    I have most of my funeral planned, only because that’s how much of a control freak I am. 😉 No calling hours for me either, although praying the rosary before Mass would be nice. Haven’t thought about the epitaph. Hmm. My husband always says funerals are for the living and other than the Mass he’ll do what he wants (calling hours — his family seems to thrive on them. Shudder) Maybe I need to put it in my will!
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    1. Jennie Cooper Post author

      Ha! It’s true that funerals are for the living, but it can be a lot of (expensive) decisions for bereaved family members to be making at the last minute. And we had a lady here who was a devout Catholic, but her family had all fallen away and they did not have a funeral Mass for her. One should be firm, at least, in whatever has to do with one’s eternal soul. :-)
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  5. Emily G

    My husband and I were just talking about this ourselves, after a dear friend’s father, who was also a friend, passed away early in November. We both agree that we do not want wakes. I do think that it would be nice, though, to have the body brought to the church earlier, before the Mass, so that a Rosary could be prayed before the Mass. I guess that’s a wake of sorts, but not at a funeral parlor. I hate those places. I feel that the wake is just to make more money for them. There is no need for it for family to connect, because the luncheon after Mass can take care of that. Of course we want a fine, solemn Requiem Mass with a good men’s schola. We didn’t talk about gravestones. Both of us want to be interred in a Catholic cemetery, but we are also drawn to the new “green” burial. If our church cemetery didn’t allow this, we’d choose Catholic over green, but perhaps it will be allowed when we die as it is becoming more popular. My husband says he wants to make our caskets some day. :) Maybe we’ll make them together.

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