Guest Blogger – My Dad on Death and Dying

My dad was an orphan whose father fell off a skyscraper a few days before switching jobs. Howie was one year old. His mother died when he was eleven, after being hospitalized for over six months. Dad was not allowed to see her because of hospital policy. He lived for a time with his older brother and sister-in-law, but grew up on the streets. He worked to provide for himself since he was an adolescent and eventually joined the military. Growing up my dad never had only one job. I remember vividly how he would come home from the Air Force and change uniforms to go work at the Liquor Store, then later somewhere else. He was not content to stay poor and raised us in a middle-class family. He has never complained about his life.

This is his blog post:

Have you ever been emotionally stressed or disturbed about how other people provided an unhealthy influence about death and dying and it’s effect on you?

To share thoughts on such an a topic as this is a little dangerous. The subject touches on influences inherited from family upbringing, relationships, personal theological beliefs, and what you have or have not been taught.

Also in a day when it is no longer fashionable to share personal feelings which might offend anyone there is no easy solution. If you have such a topic to write about, however, then you must disregard opinion and be honest with yourself and the reader.

First I want to share my thoughts on “death” and specifically “funerals”, then finish I will finish off by sharing my thoughts on “dying”.

My grandparents were “old school – don’t let anyone know your personal affairs, children should be seen and not heard, and don’t ever read a newspaper on Sunday, as it is the Sabbath” types.

On Death-

When it comes to death I believe it is a time of transition for the person dying and the loved ones left behind. For a person of faith some people, myself included, feel it is a graduation to a higher realm in heaven. For the agnostic or atheist it depends on the individual. On earth it is a time when a former life can turn into a legacy to be cherished by loved ones……or sadly in a lot of cases mean nothing.

Funerals is when it gets complicated. I really thought, and I still do think, that my relatives ideas for funerals was sick, inconsiderate, and almost retarded, when there were grieving children left behind. Tradition and “we’ve always done it this way”  reasoning sometimes are a curse when it comes to planning funerals Of course children have no say in what transpires at a funeral because no one puts themselves in the child’s place or family tradition rules.

This is where I apologize in advance if I am offending anyone  when I say that

The controversial tradition of having to have an open coffin for funerals is barbaric. It is thoughtless and can be very traumatizing and have lifetime psychological effects, especially on a child. I speak from experience. This was the case in both my wife as a little girl of 11, losing a grandmother, and in my situation as a child of 11 losing my widowed mother. My wife has several times shared her deepest feelings on this, and to discuss them with me again 61 years later still bothers her because her memories of grandma are as a cold corpse in a coffin, not a loving grandmother.

In my own life my memories of many nights at a funeral viewing and a lengthy funeral where I was seated 10 feet from my mothers open casket left indelible scars on my memory. I am still get bothered by this over sixty years later. It was one thing to suffer from viewing a cold grey corpse but the tradition of having to kiss the corpse sent shudders up my spine when I had to do this. Family tradition be damned…I will never subject my loved ones to remember me as a cold grey pasty corpse. I have already told my older brother, who was my guardian, that  I will not participate in this tradition when he passes on and he totally understands, however his wife simply must follow tradition.

For me I want people to remember a smiling, youthful, mischievous, old person who enjoyed life to the fullest, loved taking risks, and believed family was everything.

I also do not want my loved ones to inherit an administrative nightmare as my brother and I did by my mother letting a friend be executor and a relative being her lawyer. This was a recipe for disaster. Being only 11 when mom died the estate had to be put on hold with the Provincial Supreme Court until I was 21 years old. Over the ten years the Executor friend, the relative lawyer, and the Supreme Court, literally financially raped our estate of 75 % of the value.

My wife and I have good wills – a living one , and a dying one. Both my wife and my funeral arrangements are paid for. I have ensured a trust company and my oldest son be co-executors. Believe it or not, and a lot of people won’t believe it, it’s cheaper that way than having Uncle Charlie or whomever take care of everything (who as Executor legally is entitled to 3% of your estate ) even though they do not have the skill or experience. It can, in fact, be substantially more expensive to have a relative assigned.

People do not realize the mammoth amount of succession laws and tax implications there are to deal with. An executor who is ignorant of this can cost your loved ones extra heartaches and money. If some children have loans from parents which are unpaid this can cause stress among siblings if no one like a professional trust executor (who gets paid the same as Uncle Charlie) is handling the finances. Nothing causes problems, divisions, and hard feelings more than inheritance money mismanaged.

As far as my attitude about the act of dying——–I would hope my heavenly Maker would tend to agree with me when I say I have a good relationship with Him. After providing several miracles in my life, two involving almost certain death I know he knows my name. I am not afraid of dying and I have a contentment about after my death, however I really don’t want to rush the experience or suffer. The only grief I have about leaving this world is the effect on loved ones.

As a guy who likes white water canoeing, roller-coasters, and who believes that age is just a number I would finish by saying I have had a blessed life and it has been a wonderful ride.

2 thoughts on “Guest Blogger – My Dad on Death and Dying

  1. I agree. Nice post, Scott’s dad!

    When my dad died, I got to see his body on the hospital’s bed. Even though the body looked like my dad’s, I felt that something had changed. It was a really sad moment, but the worst part was when I saw the hospital’s staff taking my dad’s body, all wrapped-up in white sheets, to a room where they put them until they are picked up by the family. Then, at the funeral’s home, my mom and my brother saw him in his coffin, and they decided to keep it closed the whole time. When I try to open it to see my dad, and when asked them why we were keeping the coffin closed, they told me that the people at the funeral’s home fixed my dad in a way that didn’t look like my dad usually looked like. They shaved his beard, but left a thin mustache, which my dad never wore. My mom and brother didn’t want me to remember him that way.

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