I have always considered the whole process of a funeral barbaric and refused to attend any, preferring to honor the dead by caring for the living.

Once (and only once, thank God!) when I was five I was ordered to kneel at an open casket and pray for the soul of the nun therein. Trust me—at that age, being asked to stay in a scratchy dress and *be still* was torture! I was living at St. Vincent’s at the time and when in Rome and all that… The two youngest were always given this sacred duty. I remember the other five-year-old next to me who was praised for her (his? can’t remember the gender) devotion and purity of character… Ha! She had fallen asleep in the kneeling position but they never knew that.

I remember being fascinated that I could see the outlines of pennies under her thin eyelids. The nuns had prepped the body for burial themselves and it smelled. Or maybe it was mothballs in the casket. I don’t know. I do know that I got sick inside the casket and was in disgrace with the nuns ever after that event.

Is it any wonder I declared the funeral process barbaric, gross, and something to be avoided at all costs? For many (many, Many, MANY…I think I’ll stop there) years when a funeral came up, I did my best to get out of attending it. This bothered some and insulted others which was not my intent at all. I just didn’t see the point.

Somewhere in the last decade I believe I have changed my mind.

Ali’s death really brought home to me the concept that funerals ARE for the living. And this is one I find myself unable to attend due to previous promises. I sorely miss being there. Funerals reaffirm our connections and history with one another. Like weddings and christenings and all the other cultural group gatherings, funerals celebrate the life past and how it shaped the now living. Ali shapes mine still.

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