« blogger insider: the coincidence edition | Main | Ball talk »

the waking life

new qod: worst.song.ever.

The waking life

I don't know why I am on this introspective-checking your life-death awaits us kind of thing. I'm not being morbid about it. I'm just doing a lot of thinking.

This all lead me to laying in bed at 3am and thinking about wakes. Wakes are perhaps the most bizarre ritual known to modern man. Think about it.

You are sitting in a room with a dead body. You sit in the back, chat with relatives you haven't seen since the last family member died, and all the while there is a corpse on display in the front of the room.

Now, I am Italian. Maybe it is just inherent to Italian people to treat wakes like get-togethers. We talk, we laugh, we tell stories. And while everyone else is doing the meet and greet thing, I am always looking out the corner of my eye at that coffin. I just keep thinking. Dead person. Dead person in room. Yea, that's a corpse over there. Aunt Mary is laughing and Uncle John is cursing the Yankees and some kids are hunched over a Gameboy. And there is a corpse up there on display. Why not just prop the dearly departed up in a chair, put a beer in his hand and everyone could go up and take pictures with him? What? That would be any less surreal than discusing your golf score while leaning on your uncle's casket?

My grandmother's wake was turned into a party. Sure, I had a hand in it. We were all sitting around the funeral parlor, watching people go up and kiss the lifeless body of grandma, and I remarked that I needed a drink. A stiff drink. No pun intended. Really.

We broke into action. Within twenty minutes, there were about 40 of us outside in the parking lot, the back of my brother-in-law's truck opened up and stocked like a fabulous bar. Someone ran to 7-11 and got cups. Someone made a quick run to the liquor store. And we sat there in the parking lot of a funeral home in a cold December drizzle, telling stories about grandma and giggling nervously whenever anyone said She is going to haunt us for this, you know.

I think we do things like that at wakes because sitting in a room staring at a dead relative is a bit unnerving. What's more unnerving are the things people say while staring at the open coffin: (all true)

-Staring at coffin: Oh, he looks fantastic!
-Looks like he lost some weight before he died! Finally!
-Well, he is getting the peace he never got while he was alive. Oh, I didn't mean that as an offense to you. I'm sure he loved you.
-His fly is open.
-So, can I have his golf clubs?
-So is this dress she's being buried in like a last little prank on her?
-Mom! Kevin is checking to see if Aunt Ellen is being buried with underwear on!

As the death related introspectiveness of my week comes to a close, I would like to say, right here in print, preserved on the internet, that when I die, there better not be any wake. There should just be a party with jello shots and tequila and chocolate layer cake and music. Maybe someone will strip and dance on the table by the end of the night. Everyone should just have a great time, not talk about me at all, and be happy that your last vision of me was not my decaying body displayed in a pine box. Unless you intend on propping me up and putting a beer in my hand and taking pictures of yourself on my lifeless lap. Then by all means, go ahead.


I've only seen wakes portrayed in movies, and now here in print.

I've never seen a dead body. In our religion, caskets are always closed. And for whatever reason - I think because there are no funeral home visitations, therefore less time for pleasantries - there seems to be little time for off-topic conversation.

Still, I think wakes are a good idea. There is the one commonality in Jewish funerals... I get to see people I haven't seen since the last funeral.

What I think is worse is people saying "So Sorry for your loss" over and over. We didn't loose him he is in the box over there. And why do you assume we would be so careless to loose him and then tell you all about it.. Anyways, my .02$

my uncle jack died of cancer last year, and all his friends and relatives got together a few days before he died and threw a big party in his honor, so he actually got to attend his own wake. i'm not sure how i feel about that. i guess it was good in a way, because he got to see that hundreds of people loved him and would miss him. on the other hand, i'm sure he would've preferred not to die at all. the party was on a friday, i think, and he died the following sunday. maybe it was all too much for him...

I never knew what to think about wakes until I saw my uncle take his young daughter up to view our grandma's body. And he was so comfortable and natural about it, and explained that it was her last chance to visit and say goodbye to her grannie. And then I realized that the only thing strange about it, is that people aren't used to it. After all, we all die, death is part of life. Sounds like your family has it right on.

I hate wakes and funerals and your idea for after death sounds like what i already have planned for myself with a minor adjustment. i want to be cremated and then everyone get together and go to the amusemnet park with the biggest, fastest, most loopdy-looped, upside down almost barf, roller coaster and when it's going into the death spiral or the part that everyones fears, i want my ashes set loose from jar/fanny pack/beer bottle or whatever they chose to stick me in and then for everyone to just keep playing all day.

I. hate. wakes. My grandmother's fucked me up pretty hardcore. Staring at a corpse is NOT part of the healing process, I'm sorry...

I'm Irish. Our wakes always have a bar pretty close by, if not exactly in the funeral home. We tend to use Macken (in Rockville Centre for the LIers among us) for its proximity to MacArthur Park. I told you, we're Irish. My mother goes so far as to order a drink for the deceased and let it sit on the table. Yeah, morbid, did I mention we're Irish?

I didn't realize that you are a fellow Long Islander, Christine!

We use O'Sheas in East Meadow. For years, there was a great bar right next door to it, and everyone would take shifts going over to the bar. Then it turned into a dirtbag bar, complete with shootouts and drug busts. It's been closed since that one day last summer when I saw an obviously injured woman laying half in the street in front of the place.

So now we settle for setting up a wetbar in our cars.

uh yeah, that would turn me off too.
Actually I'm a former LIer, I live in FL now, but my heart will always be on LI!

My maiden name is O'Rourke and that side of the family is all from Wantaugh, Long Island. My grandpa's funeral when I was in college was the first wake I'd ever been to. Everyone got ripped and sang Sinatra tunes all night. It was quite a far cry from the traditional, Southern Baptist funerals on the other side of my family -- but I much prefer that to four days of casseroles and crying, I guess.