The Scandalous Choice
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
The girls and I made a choice that some people donâ€™t understand. To some, it seems a bit scandalous. Even to myself, it seems strange. A very different choice than ever before.
I Â had Â already Â made Â my Â decision Â when Â the Â girls climbed into the car and we headed toward Georgia for my dadâ€™s funeral. So had the girls. We almost spoke of it at once.
I chose not to see Daddy in his casket.
One of my earliest memories is being three years old and held up Â high Â to see Â the Â pretty Â lady Â in the Â casket, Lucinda Harrell Johnson, my Â great-grandmother. Â It was the first of many such memories.
Growing up in a small town meant we attended Â al- most every Â funeral, Â including Â the Â visits Â to Â the Â familyâ€™s home, to the visitation at the funeral home, and finally to the funeral itself. Iâ€™d been to at least 500 funerals by the time I hit Â puberty. Â And Â people Â wonder Â why Â I have Â a Goth bent!
Itâ€™s funny how some people feel the need to entertain themselves by watching the closest mourners. Itâ€™s ghoulish. Thank Â Gods, itâ€™s not the norm, but there are a few people who really seem to get off on it.
When Â Granddaddy Â died Â over Â a Â decade Â ago, Â three women stationed themselves at the foot of his casket for the best view of the mournerâ€™s Â face as each approached the Â casket Â at the Â visitation Â service. Â They Â stopped Â their gossip to gawk. Especially when it came to Â close family members. Â They Â refused Â to Â allow Â the Â private Â moment. They made themselves part of it.
People like Â that Â feed on other Â peopleâ€™s Â grief. Â They crave it, and if they donâ€™t get it in the form they want, then thereâ€™s the gossip of whether a beloved acted as devastated as necessary.
This time, it wasnâ€™t about refusing to give them satisfaction. It wasnâ€™t about them. It was about how I (and the girls, in their own wishes) Â wanted to remember Â Daddy. And it wasnâ€™t in a box.
When my friend Joe, years ago, told me he had colon cancer and only two months to live, I didnâ€™t visit him. I talked Â to him on the Â phone Â instead. He understood. Â I didnâ€™t want to see what the cancer did to him, and at his funeral, the casket was closed, though I didnâ€™t know it before and I would have been willing. My memories of him are Â vivid Â and Â livingâ€”sitting Â behind Â hisÂ desk Â with bright blue eyes and a smile. I like very much that I have that memory instead of the one our mutual Â friends talk about.
I did get some pressure about what I â€œneeded to do.â€ Well-meaning and gentle as well. Concerned that I might regret my decision, but for me, Â once the image is introduced, Â itâ€™s Â too Â late Â to Â decide Â that Â thatâ€™s Â not Â what Â I wanted. Â So I gave Â it a lotÂ of Â thought, Â I knew Â what Â I wanted, what was right for me, and I said, no, I choose not to.
I donâ€™t need to see a physical body to have closure.
I donâ€™t need to see him that way or remember him that way. I may not have that choice with every funeral in my future, but this one, I did, and this is what I wanted.
And what I honored in myself. And in him.
And if Â thatâ€™s Â a Â scandalous Â choice, Â then Â shame Â on whoever thinks so for feeling robbed of their moment of entertainment.