Monday, July 7, 2008

Funeral Visitation for a Three-Year-Old

Yesterday, I went to a funeral visitation for a three-year-old girl. As I'm sure you can imagine, there were moments that twisted my insides and made me want to run outside of the funeral home and away from all of the gloom. The child had a rare congenital condition, and the parents never expected her to live long ... but I'm not a psychologist, so I won't speculate as to whether that makes it any easier on them. They were clearly suffering yesterday.

I don't know how you even define handling death well when it happens to someone so young.

Instead of a guest book, the family put out a children's book for people to sign in the girl's honor. It was a copy of "You Are My I Love You" by Maryann Cusimano. The writing in children's books has to be so tight and brief, sometimes, when it's done well, it can be poetry. I think this book is one of those cases. In the book, the parent sets up mirroring phrases to the child—the parent takes the role of the strong, steady rock and the child becomes the fun, likely spark in lines such as "I am your carriage ride; you are my king." My favorite line relates to swimming: "I am your water wings; you are my deep."

The visitation was open-casket. I don't know if I'm in the minority with this opinion, but I actually like open-casket funerals. I do think it helps the mind achieve closure to see the person's dead body. I know some people have trouble with it. (One of my aunts struggled with my grandfather's funeral being open-casket.) It's jarring and uncomfortable ... but so is the notion that this person has died, and at least for me personally, it helps my mind make peace with it all.

Anyway, it was a sad event ... and I'm not sure what good to take away from a life that was too short and so filled with pain and suffering.

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