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Rest in peace

March 11, 2011

This morning, I attended the funeral for my counterpart’s father.

Now, one experience that I did not anticipate having here in Ukraine was a funeral. A wedding, I thought I would (and thus far, have not been to any). Graduation celebrations, holiday celebrations, I thought I would be part of (in general, also not happening). But a funeral? Well, no, that was not anticipated.

But people die, and funerals, of course, are held. So we went to this one, and it was different, and it was interesting. from an outsider’s (objective) point of view. We got to the apartment building where the person had lived and outside the exterior door, leaning against the building, were funeral wreaths with towels wrapped around them (I asked about that – the towel thing – and did not get an answer as to why they do it).

I was a bit confused as to why we were at the apartment building (i.e., his home) instead of a church or funeral home. My unspoken question was answered a little while later when more people started arriving (carrying Carnations or other funeral wreaths. And people ask me why I call Carnations death flowers), and then my counterpart and her family came out of the building, carrying items such as more Carnations, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, a framed photo of the deceased, and a couple of stools.

We were all gathered around, and then a vehicle came, stopped, and was unloaded. It was a casked, in which the deceased man lay. The brought it out of the vehicle and set it on the stools. After that, people went up to the casket, paid their last respects, and laid the flowers on him. I find it interesting that he was wrapped in beautiful lace and covered in flowers. People stood around him and talked, and cried – it was really nice to see that people were not afraid to show their emotions.

After a while, a priest showed up and conducted the service. We left during that point, but I understand that after the service, they brought the deceased to the graveyard, where he was interred.

All in all, it was quite the experience, even though we left before the service had ended. Objectively speaking, I have never been to a funeral that was held at or outside the person’s home like this was. I wondered if they don’t have funeral homes here, if this is how it is always done. I marveled at the differences in culture, and how funerals are a really good way of showing such differences, as the rites vary so greatly from one country to another.

On a personal level, I am very sorry for my counterpart’s loss. I hope she does not mind me using her father’s funeral as the topic of a blog post, and as an educational experience. It is one that I truly appreciate, as it is one that I do not believe many people get to experience. It is intimate in some ways, to see that kind of grief that a person experiences, and I feel lucky that I was allowed in.

May his memory be a blessing.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Cherry Markovich permalink
    March 11, 2011 8:29 am

    In my experience as a floral designer, carnations are used for many occasions because they are one of the flowers that hold up better and last longer than more fragile flowers. In the U.S., the lily is more commonly considered the “death flower” (thus the Easter Lily).

    There are usually very practical reasons for things such as handling flowers. The towels on the flowers may have been a means of keeping them fresh or protected from the elements and/or handling until it was time to bring them forward.

    I think the ritual you describe is very loving and humane. In fact, when a relative on my husband’s side died last year she passed in the home with the family surrounding her and she stayed there while people visited. She was then removed in the evening to go to the funeral home to be prepared for services and interrment.

    Of course it is a sensitive time for all involved and emotions are usually very high, so discussing various cultural rites/practices should be done with due respect for the deceased and survivors.

    You have been honored to be included in this family matter.

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