Honoring the Dead

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On December 14th, 2014, Nanny, my grandmother, died. She babysat me all of the time, so I would hang out at her house often, becoming very close to her. It was a good way to keep her company, too, since her husband, my grandfather who I called Poppy, died in June of 2010.

Nanny was nicknamed "The General" in our family; whatever she said went. If anyone got a haircut she didn't like, it was cut. If she found out a grandchild's room was messy, the room became clean in the next 10 minutes. If we wanted to do something our parents didn't allow, all we had to do was get it "Nanny Approved" and we could do it.

I was told that Nanny was getting seriously sick by my dad at the beginning of November of 2014. I was told, "No more fighting with your brother in front of her," and, "Make her last Christmas count."

Nanny died on December 14th, 11 days before what was supposed to be her last Christmas. Eleven days from what was also my 11th birthday.

A few days after she died, we drove up to Valley Stream, Long Island, New York (where my family is originally from) for the funeral, which was at the same place as Poppy's and my Great Uncle Richie's.

Amelia Joseph's Smart Asset article "How Much Does the Average Funeral Cost" states that a funeral could cost around $7,181. This includes a viewing, burial, embalming, hearse, transfer of remains, service fees, and more.

The viewings were full of the typical, "I'm so sorry for your loss," and, "At least she's not suffering anymore," yet, they didn't seem real. They were a slow-motion horror dreamland where at any point it seemed like Nanny could just pop out of her coffin and start her day. The embalming process had made her so beautiful, and I hated it. This was not Nanny. I was looking at a painted doll, not her. 

According to the Funeral Consumers Alliance, the average cost of embalming, cosmetology, and dressing ranges from $495-$1,290. This gives funeral homes an opportunity to increase consumer spending by about $3,000. In reality, embalming is a very physically invasive process that actually provides no public health benefit.

I was heading back to the hotel from the last night of the viewings (the night before the actual funeral) with my mom, dad, brother, and my Great Aunt Lorraine. Driving on Long Island at night is weird. Every street during the day is the same. The scenery may be different depending on the road, but no matter where you are in the world, all roads still have the same feel to it. During night time, though, this is different.

Driving on a back road at night for me kind of symbolizes an escape from life. It's the one place you can be where you can let your emotions out and no one can see them. The one place where you can scream lyrics to a song as loud as you want without anyone caring. You can go as fast or as slow as you want, and it doesn't matter because you're on a back road so there's hardly any cars to begin with.

Driving on a highway or turnpike at night kind of has the same feel to it as the backroad, but not really. When you drive on a highway or turnpike, you feel like you're in your own little world, as if nothing else exists except for what you're driving on right now. There might be houses on the other side of the trees, but that's hard to believe for some reason. In the same way, though, you feel exposed. You feel like you're connected with all of the people driving on that highway/turnpike; you know all of their stories, and they know all of yours.

Driving on a neighborhood or town road at night I personally don't like. You're surrounded by other people, stores, restaurants, and houses, so it doesn't feel special. It feels like the end of your journey with nothing else to explore, nowhere else to be yourself, especially if that's your town or neighborhood.

Driving on Long Island at night is weird because all of the roads on Long Island are a mixture of the three previously mentioned.

Anyway, I was heading back to the hotel when I saw Christmas decorations. You know, those light-up-wreath-candy-canes that towns put on their telephone poles. It was at that point when I thought to myself, Oh wow, Christmas is coming up soon. I completely forgot!

I was 10 years old. There were about five days from December 25th. My birthday is on Christmas. I had completely forgotten that Christmas was coming up. God, isn't that sad?

My grandmother was dead, and I was expected to celebrate Christmas and, "Be in the spirit," because of these decorations. How dare they? How dare they even think about Christmas while I was sitting here mourning.

The actual funeral church part came with, "We are gathered here to say fair well to Ann Aglio and commit her into the hands of God." Then, the children of this "Ann Aglio" gave their speeches, my mom with her famous, "(person's name) had many hats." The gifts were given, and then it was time for the burial.

All of us stood around it, freezing our butts off. We threw roses onto the casket, each one having a different meaning; each one taunting us. Afterwards, my entire family got into our respective rides and headed to the restaurant we were all eating at next. All of us trying not to think about where my grandmother's body would be going next.

Fox Buisness' article "10 Facts Funeral Directors May Not Tell You" by Terry Sheridan states that cemetery services can cost around $3,300. The Federal Trade Commission's article "Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist" says that the cost of a casket can range from $2,000-$10,000. This is usually the most expensive thing you'll buy for a funeral. The You Caring website's article "Cost of Funeral Services" states that a grave spot alone can cost around $1,000.

It's sick how similar all Catholic funerals are. I've gone through three, and the only difference was the person.

Funerals are supposed to be a way to, "honor and respect the dead." They are used to give the deceased a "proper send-off," that will, "guarantee them into heaven." Is doing the exact same thing for every dead person really the best way to, "honor the dead?" From what I've learned, funerals are a way to take advantage of despairing people who will do anything that they think their dead loved ones would want.

These so-called "wants" are just manipulated so that funeral homes can and will make a profit. Way to, "honor the dead," I guess.

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Micflynn said...
today at 8:33 pm
Excellent writing! Personal, relatable, interesting, and informative! Bravo!!
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