Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How Do You Mourn the Dead?

Admittedly, this is an awful heavy topic for a pop-culture laden blog, but it struck me today while talking with a co-worker. She is Jewish and is dealing with the impending death of her father. We had started talking about things this morning when she mentioned that according to Jewish customs, things are much different than a Christian mourning.

First thing she mentioned was that Jewish funerals typically don't have an open-casket visitation. There are no flowers usually either. The funeral service is short and to the point. The burial is likewise. Then there are several days dedicated to mourning. The televisions and mirrors are all covered with cloth and essentially you dedicate yourself to thinking about the dead and talking about him/her with others.

While this initially seems odd, I asked if it helped to have that closure when the mourning period ends. She said it did, and I imagine that's so. Christian funerals tend to be almost more of a homecoming. There are many who legitimately mourn and are deeply affected, but there are more who are there simlply to "pay respects." And that usually means walking up the casket, looking at the dead, then returning to catch-up conversations.

But while mourning is optional at the funeral, and is certainly acceptable afterward, the concept of dedicating several days to this (two-three days as I understand it) is intriguing. The memory of a lost one doesn't go away after two or three days, but having set aside that period of time to focus and say, "Goodbye" seems like a good idea.

I'm really now very curious to study more about how different cultures mourn. I do not have the time to invest in this right now, but it's in the back of my mind. I won't take for granted that everyone does it the same way anymore.

No comments: