“Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed”

Why do Antiguans insist on burying people before their time? Or more accurately, announcing that people are dead before the doctor signs the form? And sometimes doing it years before they’re actually gone?

When I was younger, I heard the story of a local person who had been declared dead, but had to knock on the roof of his coffin to let the mourners know that he wasn’t ready yet.

I don’t know if that story was really true (you know how kids are), but much later I saw a documentary on the condition called catalepsy, and then Lazarus syndrome, which let me know that there might have been some truth in what the schoolchildren said.

Death must come to all of us, but can we let it come when it’s ready? On our small island, a death is something to talk about on an otherwise slow news day. My sister-in-law said that she knew a man who had died three times before he actually passed. I forgot to ask her if she’s sure that he‘s really dead. But I guess she actually saw him.

This is why there’s a period designated for “viewing”.

I heard a story from someone about seeing a family member in a funeral home after she was prepared for burial. Whoever was responsible for choosing the clothing, made an error, because when the niece of the deceased saw her, she declared that her aunt looked pretty upset because she wasn’t wearing her favourite hat.

Since the lady could not possibly leave without looking her best, someone was dispatched to bring it, and when she got back, the aunt was raised up, the hat was changed and she was laid back to rest. After the wardrobe change, the niece was heard to say, “She look plenty better”.

I’m not much for viewing people after they have passed, dressed or not, but I’m thinking I may have to, after this story of a mourner who entered the funeral home already in full bawl. As she neared the body, she realized that the person on display was not anybody she knew, and so she promptly made an about-face, the tears leaving before she did.

What’s my point? That maybe we should actually see before we believe, because condolences given in advance are awkward – for everybody.

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