Death Notes: Lessons from a Wake


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Just a week ago, a family friend and neighbor whom I had known since I was a kid lost her battle to cancer. Although it was not unexpected, the feeling of sadness and loss was in no way diminished. In a community like ours, our neighbors are already like distant relatives. We may not always see eye to eye, but a sense of kinship has developed with each passing years.

It was just unfortunate that I was not able to visit her in the hospital when she was confined. I really felt bad but at least my mother was able to visit her a day before she died. Although we were not extremely close, her passing has brought an unexpected melancholy. It was probably because she was almost the same age as my parents and her death  somehow shook me.  The gloomy weather did nothing but dampen my mood even more. Death really has a way of getting to me.

My mother asked me to attend at her wake, but I even before that, I had already planned on going after a shift from work to pay my respects. I don’t normally go to a wake voluntarily because I never seem to know what to do or say in that particular occasion. Honestly, I just don’t understand the whole wake thing because for me death is so final, nothing else matter. I don’t even get what the word “condolences” mean. I’m not sure what its intended effect for the people who has lost a loved one.The word feels so unnatural for me. I mean…what’s the point? The dead is still dead, and the living is left to grieve. But I guess I just tend to over analyze things  that I find hard to process.

While I was sitting there among her family and friends, I struggled to think of a word to say but found that my thoughts are filled with nothing but depressing thoughts. “Just great!”, I thought to myself.  Exactly what these people need.  So I simply sat and listened.

As I listened to their conversation, I noticed that although death is a topic they discussed, it was not the main point of their conversation. Instead, the focus is in the future. At first I found it ironic that an occasion marked with death and loss would center on something so alive, so hopeful. But slowly, the answer to my question starts to unravel.

So, what’s the point?

Yes, the dead will remain dead. An eternal sleep. Yet for the family and friend who are left behind,there is still a tomorrow to speak of. The dead will not note our absence in their wake, nor would they care if we brought flowers nor if speak well of them . But now, I think these simple things are not lost on our friends whom we wish to comfort. In times of loss, people tend to seek out to what is present, to what they have left. Although we are in no way to substitute the person that they have lost, our presence seeks to validate the fact that they are not alone. I just hope that in my own quiet way, I was able to show my care and offer of support to my friends in their time of sadness.

Wakes or funerals, as it turns out are not an affair for the dead nor for death. Rather, it is a celebration of life. A celebration of the life of those who has passed o; yet more importantly, an acknowledgement of the promise of a future after a loss for those that continues to live. Death, as with birth, is the most natural thing on earth. No one lives forever, that’s for sure. But in our everyday struggle, we learn to draw strength from each other. In the face of death, we clearly see how alike we are in many ways.

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4 thoughts on “Death Notes: Lessons from a Wake

  1. When I was young I used to ask myself too of the purpose of the wake and would telling the family “condolences” would make any difference. When I dad and grandmother died, I knew. These two are something that isn’t to understand or analyze. Creepy as it may sound, you have to experience death to fully see the importance of a wake and what condolences mean. Wake, for me was chance to know more about my dead loved one from other people’s perspective. It was surprising to see how he/she was able to touch other lives apart from his own. For shocking deaths, wake is a chance to finally come at peace with the death itself and prepare yourself to formally say goodbye to your dead loved one.

    1. Exactly.Now, I think it’s more of a necessity, like a part of the grieving process. I can’t just imagine how it is for those who are unable to hold a funeral for their their loved ones because the body was not recovered. That’s such a torturous ordeal.
      Life can be a bummer sometimes.
      This weather is putting me in such a somber mood. 😦

  2. well said. i think i’ll be one of your regular reader from now on especially if you have posts regarding death. i am always bewitched by how different people see and philosophize death.

    1. Nice to know I’m not alone. It’s quite fascinating really, though the topic is somewhat depressing. Thanks for dropping by =)

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