Before the death of my mom and Francine, I had been to wakes and sat Shiva for family and friends. In most cases at these events, I was the “visitor” and not the griever. I was going to pay my respects for the person I cared about or for their family.
At both a wake and sitting Shiva, you would find a gathering of people coming together to try to cop with the death of a friend, acquaintance or relative. I realized that wakes and Shiva seem very similar in so many ways with most obvious difference being that the wake is held before the burial and Shiva is after.
I always thought about them both as a way to say goodbye. Now that I have experienced it so closely, I have come to the realization that perhaps they are not held necessarily for the deceased but for the living.
At a point that has been the most sorrowful time of my life, it has enabled us the opportunity to be with friends and family recalling good times and wonderful memories. During mom and Francine’s wakes, there was a sense of solidarity – coming together in a celebration of love for them. As each guest arrived to pay his or her respects, I found myself not only sad but also invigorated and inspired. Old friends who I had not seen in years, and new friends all came to give support to our family. There was not a lot of time to share with each of them individually, but a hug and a smile and even shared tears were enough to let us know that they were here for us and that WE are loved as much as my mom and Francine. We were able to take comfort in the company of each other as we mourned. Seeing the lines of people waiting to greet us and pay their final respects to mom and Francine, made us feel loved and supported during this incredibly sad time.
I have come to the realization, that attending a wake or sitting Shiva, is not just a time to feel sorrow and grief, but a way to acknowledge the living.