Funeral practices differ from place to place, ethnic background to ethnic background, and probably even by class. That said, the practices we had for dad were pretty typical blue collar, anglo, Pittsburgh. That meant that we began with a viewing at the funeral home. I was not looking forward to the viewing. I pictured standing around near an open casket with a parade of folk coming by saying "I'm so sorry for your loss. Doesn't he look natural?"
Well... he didn't look natural so that part was gone. We did get lots of "sorry"s but the piece that I wasn't expecting and really appreciated was the stories. People shared short stories about dad that showed the different way they had experienced him. One jumped out. Dad had a twin - Dave - and together they worked at a local grocery store while in their teens. The owner lived across the street from dad as he grew up. The grocer had two sons - Dave and Wayne. I never paid any attention until Dave told me that Wayne's first name was George and that they were named after dad and his twin. Then Dave told me stories of dad babysitting for him and his brother and even going on vacation with them. I never pictured dad babysitting. I could only imagine the impression he and Uncle Dave had made that got two children named after them.
Another piece that was wonderful was to see who showed up. Towards the end of his working, dad worked for a large construction company. The retired owner showed up at the funeral home and spoke about what a dependable and good worker dad had been.
After the service we had a luncheon and told more stories. A cousin sand an off-color song that dad taught him as a child. A second cousin shared that she was 15 before she realized that his name wasn't "Uncle Sausage" - dad liked to come up with names for everyone and when nothing else came to mind - sausage was the fall back.
Add to that just connecting with family and friends and while there were tears, it was also a good time together. Still, it feels odd to begin to realize that very soon my generation will be the old ones. It is already true on the Donkin side.
Mom is not doing well and I doubt that it will be long before we have another viewing and funeral... When I left, it was pretty obvious that it would be the final time we'd be together. That was very difficult for her and for me.