My family recently attended the funeral of my husband’s close childhood friend who was killed in a motorcycle accident a couple of weeks ago. His wife is also in serious condition, and he left behind two young children and many grieving friends. Like most major life events, the funeral brought a new round of anxiety for me.
Fear of death is something I struggle with, and it’s a topic I tried to explore with Lucy Kendall. Why am I so afraid? Is it a lack of faith? I don’t think so. I believe in God and some kind of an afterlife, even if I’m not sure any single religion is correct.
I think the real crux of it is the idea that one day, I will be no more on this earth. That my own body will just cease. I will be dead. I go through periods of mild panic attacks, usually in the middle of the night, when for just a very brief, heart stopping moment, the truth fully dawns on me. Dead.
And yet, I am strangely drawn to anything morbid. Research is easy for me. Crime scene photos don’t bother me (unless they’re children). The whole idea of embalming and how long a body can last is fascinating to me.
But I hate funerals. I hate seeing them in the casket, all waxen and usually nowhere close to looking like themselves. Dead people in pictures don’t feel as real. It’s easy to see them as an object, something that’s not going to happen to me. Seeing the reality, surrounded by grief and the powerful scent of funeral flowers, I can no longer pretend.
Like all parents, I don’t want to pass my hangups on to my kid. I’ve been very upfront with Grace about death, and her attending a funeral has been a point of contention between my husband and me. He believed she was too young, I thought she needed to have the experience before someone she knew and loved passed on.
She attended our friend’s funeral. Before we left, I told her what to expect, explaining how people often are embalmed and then we pay our respects. I wanted her to understand that death and the body she may see was nothing to be afraid of. It’s a part of life we can’t dwell on, and we were there to honor him.
Grace handled it well. So did I, once I realized the casket was closed. Selfishly, I didn’t want to see that good man like that, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to calm my daughter’s fears if she got upset, because deep inside, I’m scared too. But she did witness the mourning process, and she understood the gravity of the situation.
I still fear death, and I still don’t know exactly why. But hopefully, by being open and honest with Grace, I won’t pass on the same fears to her.