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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Funeral

The flowers are from the spray on top of Ben's casket
I have never really understood the reason for having both a visitation (or viewing) and a funeral. Especially, when the deceased is cremated. I guess it does give people who can't make it to the funeral a chance to say good bye. It just seems harder on the family though. With everything else they are going through they have to plan two events instead of just one, and in a matter of just a couple of days.

I never understood until now. In the Orthodox tradition, the visitation is used for a short service called a Trisagion. The Trisagion is a prayer  chanted by a priest, over the deceased. It asks for forgiveness of sins both deliberate and accidental and for blessings on the deceased. After the prayer, people do the eulogies. The day of the funeral only the priest speaks. There was a definite purpose for each.

Ben's Trisagion and visitation were wonderful. His friends Jim, Gene and Vickie each got up and spoke for him. Jim's had humor, warmth and caught Ben's essence. You could tell the man picked to be my brother's Godfather in the church was a treasured friend. Gene, he gave the eulogy of a brother. His voice broke, his eyes swelled, he had a very hard time finishing. Gene and Ben had been best friends as long as I could remember. The only thing that kept them from being true brothers was the inconvenience of being born to separate parents. Vickie graduated high school with Ben. They went to Tech, and have worked on reunions together, they were good friends.

This wooden cross was on top of Ben's casket. It was made
By the Trappist Monks that made the casket, and meant
for the family to keep.
The Gold Cross was the one in Ben's
casket for the visitation and

Friday was the funeral. Friday the 13th. Stacey and I didn't realize when we planned it that it landed on Friday the 13th. Anyone else, might take exception to that. Maybe even be insulted that loved ones would plan their funeral on Friday the 13th. My brother, was probably howling with laughter over it. I can imagine him throwing his head back "HEH, HEH!!" A laugh he was famous for.

Stacey, Dad and I had picked out a casket made and blessed by Trappist Monks in Peosta, Iowa. It was simple, modest, and absolutely gorgeous. The Monks use Earth friendly methods to harvest and grow the trees from which they make their caskets. I know my brother would appreciate that.  He looked very comfortable and at home in it. His casket fit him, not ornate, not over blown.

The service at the church, was beautiful. I have never been to a funeral like it. The priest and a chanter sang almost the entire service. They both took turns and harmonized. It gave you the feeling of sadness, hope and beauty all at the same time. It was, well I can't find the words. It was spiritual, you could feel the presence of God in their voices and harmony. It felt large. It was full and overwhelming. I couldn't stop crying.

Father Basil talked about Ben more. He made us smile and laugh through our tears. You could tell he too would miss my brother.

He was taken to the burial site at the Greek Orthodox part of a cemetery. There again the Father sang a prayer. My dad was exhausted and waited in the car, but could see. I pulled a flower from the spray on top of the casket and took it to Dad. Father Basil took the cross that had been in Ben's casket and gave it to Dad along with some more flowers.

There was a reception after back at the church. It was a simple coffee hour reception. There were fruit trays, veggie platters, nuts, and chocolates. There were also Dutch Letters and Windmill cookies from Pella. Getting these for coffee hour had been a tradition with Ben and his Godfather Jim. Jim wanted them to be there for the reception. (Is it called a reception for a funeral?) I sure wasn't going to argue, Dutch Letters are wonderful. There was laughter and stories of Ben. There were still tears and grieving. It reminded me of one of my most favorite quotes from a movie ever. From the movie Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."


  1. We generally call it a mercy meal at a funeral. It is meant to comfort the grieving and to be shared with the poor.

  2. Thank you Becky for this...your beautiful writing gave me a calming visual of Ben's funeral. May you and your family find peace in the days ahead, through the memories with laughter or tears...May God Bless you and yours

    Dyan Bell

  3. Memory eternal to him. Thank you for sharing that with us - it's an immense comfort. That feeling of hope and sorry mixed, we Orthodox call joyful sorrow. We acknowledge the pain of losing someone, the empty space in our hearts and lives that their absence brings, but we also recognize the joy that they are with God and beyond all pain and all suffering, in pure joy now. God be with you and your dad and the rest of your family, Becky.