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Unsettling Question/Beware

Posted by Lulie___Wayne (lulieathome@aol.com) on
Fri, Jan 9, 04 at 21:34

Many times when I go to the cemetery to visit with Chris, I can't help but think about what she may look like now.
It bothers me a lot and I wish that those thoughts wouldn't come into my head, but they do. It bothered me that she didn't look like herself in the casket and it bothers me to even picture how she looked then, and more so, how she looks almost 6 years later.
Gosh, I hope I don't plant any seeds here, but from talking to some of my nut friends about this, we all feel the same way.
Do any of you who have buried loved ones, feel this way?
Lu


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Lulie, this is a very delicate subject, but your bravery in bringing it up indicates that you are not alone in your thinking.

Think of the body as an empty shell, the way that sea creatures leave behind a shell, so the remaining parts are not the actual person. The remains naturally return to basic elements; the preparation of the body for burial retards that process and the process becomes oxidation rather than decay.

My child was cremated, as I will be. It merely speeds the process rather than retarding it.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Yes, I think that too about my sister and mom. Probably why I rarely go to the cemetary. I talk to them where ever I am.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

lu
i think that is a very honest question and im sure many think about this. i too, was disturbed by how my mother looked in the casket. perhaps i can say, she just didnt look like "her". her hair was different and of course there was makeup, which she rarely wore. i realize the funeral directors are working off a picture and probably do the best they can. but i did find myself , in the coming months and years, "picturing" what they looked like in the ground below me when i would visit their grave site.
a delicate question...yes...but glad you had the courage to bring it up.
deb


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Lu, I can only imagine your feelings for your child. I know for my dad it wasn't so much in the casket as it was in the hospital. He looked as if he were a small child so frail and ill. Not what we were used to, but I am beginning to see the natural occurrence in this. It must be so much harder for a parent and I can't speak for them. From what I have read from you she will be beautiful if that helps any.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

This is why I don't go to the cemetery often. I stand and either stare at Brian's name on the stone or look at the ground and imagine where his head would be and where his long legs would end and my mind wanders to thoughts I'd rather not have. His soul was released from his broken body and his soul is what calls to me and lives in my heart.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Lu,

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return". We are reminded of this on Ash Wednesday as we prepare for Lent. We are also promised that we will receive glorified bodies in heaven. I can't say exactly what that means, but be confident that when you see your daughter again, she will be as beautiful as you remember her.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

This is one reason why I had my daughter cremated. When my mother died (I was nine), I had so many terrible thoughts about her body's deterioration. And I grew up never wanting to be on display in a funeral home. I used to say I wanted to be remembered laughing or singing.

Curiously, though, I wasn't troubled by these thoughts when my stepmother died. We were close, and she didn't want to be cremated. I had her buried with her dog, and when I think of her grave I don't imagine how they must actually look now, eight years later, but instead I think of the two of them, so devoted, and together forever.

I think FoxesEarth is right about the body being an empty shell. We dearly loved every inch of that shell, but it is no longer needed. And it never was as brilliant or powerful as the spirit that still lives.

Susan


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

I, too, had those unsettling thoughts/images, until I read this story a few years back.

Medgar Evers was a civil rights activist murdered in Mississippi. His body was exhumed when his murderer came to trial, 25 years later.

I've copied and pasted the specific paragraph, you can go to the link if you're interested in the whole article...

A poignant moment in the attorney's presentation came when he showed a slide of the exhumed body of Medgar Evers, perfectly composed after being buried more than 25 years at Arlington National Cemetery. Several members of the audience shed tears, as the speaker seemed to choke back his own emotions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Medgar Evers story


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Many of the Catholic saints are still incorrupt after hundreds of years of being dead without embalming. I saw several with my own eyes in Europe recently. I like to think that Christin was so sweet and thoughtful in her life and loved God so much, maybe her body doesn't look too bad. I know it doesn't matter, really. Her soul is with God, but our human minds can't help but wonder about the unknown. I know that her soul was so beautiful.
I want to write something else about "from dust to dust".
I'll start a new post.
Lulie is on a roll again. :-)
Lu


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

I have all of these thoughts also, and try to not have them. It is usually at the cemetery. It is very unsettling. I can't figure out how to keep the thoughts from recurring, except to just force them out of my mind at the time.
I was very distressed about the make-up, etc when my father died. He had freckles...but nary a one was visible. I made tham remove some of the makeup...but that was no better. When my Mom died, I told the funeral home to only shampoo and dry her hair, and I would come and do her hair and make-up. That worked out really well...we just did it as she always wore it and she looked very natural. I really think that is the way to go, and it gives you some more personal time. Of course, morticians can not do mouths either...my Mother looked very angry...maybe she was. They really need to work on mouths! Derry


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

The Mortician's Art is just that: an art. Some are better artists. The time that elapses between death and embalming has an impact. There is an art to 'fixing' the mouth so that it doesn't result in a frown but doesn't gape open. There is an art in getting the mix of chemicals right during the restoration process to try to make the skin look 'natural.' There is an art in makeup -- the face has lost all its natural color and as Derry pointed out, freckles get covered up. The gentlemen (and ladies) whom I know who get the best results have been in the business for decades.

A relative of mine died a little over a year ago. Her children did as she asked and did not have a viewing for any but immediate family. After they saw her, they said that if they had known how good she would look, they would never have promised. She was in her ninties, very thin with very thin hair, but in repose, with makeup and wig, she looked quite beautiful. It is indeed an art.

On the other hand, the embalming process retards the natural deterioration of the body. Federal law prohibits them from advertising it as 'forever' but it does preserve for decades, even centuries. The oxidation process does cause the eventual 'dust' that was described in the post about the Saints where Lulie visited. Think of dried flowers; the beauty remains, but eventually they disintegrate.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Thank goodness, I thought I was the only one who thought about this. When it enters my thoughts I quickly try to think of something else. It was so cold the day we buried my mom (New Years Eve 2003) I worried so much that she was cold. I know that is silly but I couldn't get it out of my mind. Especially the next day when we got about 3" of snow. I'm getting off of the subject here. I'm just glad to know that I wasn't the only one who had these thoughts.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Theresa, I don't think that there is anything as far as grief goes that someone else has not thought. I'm finding that out more and more as I deal wtih others who are grieving. Our individual grief is so different because of our relationships with our deceased, but many of our thoughts and feelings are universal.
Sometimes I beat myself up for allowing Christin to have an open casket. Since she didn't look like herself (she was absolutely beautiful in life), and she was a teen who cared what she looked like in front of others, I feel badly for letting others see her like that. I console myself by telling myself that the people who knew her knew how beautiful she was and I'm sure that wasn't on her worry list after she left this world. LOL
Lu

Here is a link that might be useful: Christin Cosby Memorial Web Site


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Gluecille, this is off-topic but I worried about Brian being cold and alone also. His grave is on the top of a hill. He was buried in October and winter was approaching. Grief was new and raw and the cold nights made me crazy thinking about him up there dressed in just a dress shirt and slacks. It took me a long while to reconcile the spirit vs body concept in my head.


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I was so worried that my Mother would die during the winter. Didn't think I could bear to bury her in the cold. That was one thing I was consciously thankful for...that the weather was warm after Easter, It was a beautiful day and season. All these thoughts are very disturbing. God rest their souls!DW


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I've had these thoughts too. I try not to think of what's he looks like several feet below my feet.
He's out of all pain anyway.


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i also am glad you brought this up lu...altho we had jamie cremated.....i had terrible dreams of this kind after i found her several hours after she had died...i couldnt get that image out of my mind and since we had decided to have her cremated ...when i called the next day to see if i could see her once more the coroner told me no ..she was in no condition for viewing..that again brought horrible images to my mind.....i know her body was only a shell ...i could tell that when i found her...but knowing there was so much vibrance and life in that shell less than 24 hours prior was a very strange and horrifying experience to endure....i know my jamie would have been so mad if we had people looking at her..she was so selfconscious....but all the decisions you must make so suddenly sometimes leave you feeling you should have done it a different way...i just wish i would have had them keep her so i could have seen her just once more


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

i was brought up to believe that when a person dies they leave the body behind....
"to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord"
although i haven't lost any loved ones yet, i frequently go to the cemetary to leave flowers on the graves of others to honor the person that was, but as for what they look like, i just remember that the person isn't in the grave...the person is with the Lord...


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

I try to force these thoughts out of my mind also. I feel it's best for me not to think that way. I even find those horror movies with zombies, etc. hard to watch (not that I ever liked the gory stuff anyway). A weird fact I heard once, all the preservatives we eat these days are also preserving US once we die. Strange, huh?


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Lulie, for the first year after my twin died I thought a lot about that very thing. It will be four years on July 3rd, and I still wonder.


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Yeah... I think I've posted about this before. His grave is still fresh and raw looking.

Dan looked so good, from a distance it seemed as though he were sleeping peacefully. But up close, a week later, I was so glad we were putting him in the ground. The backs of his hands were starting to turn black, and he was... smaller. I was angry that he smelled. When all of the teens who attended his funeral came to write on his casket, I was there too, and as I leaned over the smell about made me gag. I hated the thought that he went out that way, and watching him go into the cool earth was good. Sometimes I get scared in the dark, coz I've watched too many zombie movies and my over active imagination will conjure up an image of him in his present state creeping about where I can't see. I hate thinking that, but I can't seem to help it. The whole dead body scene which I have described in other posts has traumatized me - I can't stop thinking about how that inscision continued to bruise and swell and... fester, how much worse it looked 6 days later, when I pulled down the collar of his t-shirt just to see it again.

And this has been bothering me: at my job as a bartender I talked to a mortician. He said we should not have been allowed alone with his corpse like that... and that embalming is done with a needle. He told me the only reason for the wound I described was an autopsy - but as far as my family knows, no autopsy was necessary or performed. When we enquired about the ghastly wound, the mortician said it was part of the embalming process. The old mortician I talked to at the bar said that wasn't true. =\

I know Dan is rotting down there. Thats why Im glad he's down there, where he can be in peace without us gaping at his case and freaking out about the deterioration. I'll never see it but my imagination is enough, and I know it's probably not healthy to ever think that way. He never scared me in life, he was just my sweet kid brother.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

CariJo, I have never heard of cutting the chest to embalm. The only thing that I know that they cut is in the neck and leg to get to the arteries. It's just a small cut in both places.
In autopsies they usually do a Y cut from each shoulder down through the stomach area.
You could probably get access to the embalming papers if you wanted to OR inquire at the coroner's office to see if an autopsy was performed. Do you know where Dan's body was taken immediately after the accident?
It's possible and probable that they didn't do a full autopsy, but they may have wanted to check the lungs and that area to see if there was any foreign matter in and around them to rule out any possible foul play. They can tell a lot from this. The stomach contents also tells a lot. They can tell if a body was already dead when it reached the water or if death occured in the water. It's your right to find out exactly what was done.
I wish that I could help you during this horrible time for you. I'm so sorry that you are so distressed.
Please try not to think of the horrors of what you saw and the things that you are imagining. Dan is perfectly whole and beautiful and happy now. His body is just the shell that held his soul. I know you love it, though.
Dan loves you as much as you love him and he wouldn't want you to be so upset. I know that you will aways miss him, but try not to have bad thoughts. I know I'm a good one to talk. I'm the one who started the thread, but I do work on thinking good thoughts instead of bad. Sometimes you just have to throw them out of your head as soon as they come.
Dan's soul is beautiful and it is still alive. I don't ever say that Christin and Mom "Died", because I don't believe that the essence of them died. They left us and their souls are still around, alive and as beautiful as they were when they left, and so is Dan's.
Dan is with you. You are not alone.
I hope that you are feeling better tomorrow. Please check in again. If you want to email me, feel free to any time.
Lu


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I only saw my father as ashes after he died, and I was extremely shocked by it. We went to one of his favorite spots to scatter his ashes, and my Mom goes into the trunk and pulls out my Dad, in a little cardboard box. I thought to myself, "That can't be him. Where's my Dad?". It was a very shocking ordeal, and I can imagine the thoughts that go through the minds of those with buried loved ones can be much more vivid. It must be hard to think of what their bodies go through.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

CariJo, I know the impact that your brothers death has on you. But time does make things different. When my 22 year old daughter was killed in a different state it was almost a week later that she was buried. The Air Force had her body taken care of in Florida[we are from Illinois) and they told us that an open casket was okay. It wasnt okay. Her beautiful blonde hair was orange,she had a big gash on her face and it wasnt even her own nose. My younger daughter was screaming for us to close the casket which we did right away. I kept telling myself that it wasnt her laying there until the day of the funeral when we seen her one last time and I caught a glimpse of my daughter and then I lost it. My younger daughter was afraid to drive alone at night for a long time after that for fear that the sister she saw at the funeral home would appear to her in the passinger seat. I feel so guilty that we didnt view her first and have it closed before anyone seen her. She would have hated it. I never thought I would be able to talk about the memories we have of her and be able to smile again as we remember but am starting to. Just remember that it wont always be this awful and we will be with them again someday just as we remembered them before. Julie


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Lulie - Thank you so much. Your wisdom in this matter has cleared something up for me that was really tormenting me, and I don't feel I have the time or the energy to go pressing for funeral home embalming papers. I'm sure you're right: they just made that cut to look in his lungs and make sure that they could determine his exact cause of death. Thank you so much for helping me in that area.

Wendy - I know what you mean - to this day, my big brother sits on the top shelf in my mother's closet. It's a heavy but small box, and it feels so weird to heft it.

Julie Ann - thank you for posting your similar experience, and letting me know I'm not the only one scared by my gruesome experience. I felt bad for being scared of my sweet kid brother, who would never hurt me in life or death. Your experience sounds painful - I'm so glad it wasn't worse with him. I can imagine the pain of those of you whose loved ones were hurt badly or disfigured in the proccess of death. Or knowing that there is someone behind the wheel to possibly blame. I feel for all of you.

Thank you for being here and allowing me to post and write how I feel. Thank you especially to Lulie and Terry and Julie, and the rest of you who are unamed to me, who have felt the passing of a young and beautiful person you loved. It heps to know I'm not alone.


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I lost my mom in Feb and one of my brother in April of this year. My mother was buried, but my brothers requested to be cremated. He said it didn't really matter. I constantly think about both of them. I have memories of my mom and my brother. When I start missing them, I think about the things we did together and that way, they are still with me. I realize I too must one day go the same way and others will be left behind feeling the same way I do and others who have lost love ones. Death is a part of living, but it's so hard to accept or go through the missing part of it.


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RE: Unsettling Question/Beware

Yes, it is, Rabbit. We all have to go through it, though.
Maybe by losing those we love, we learn to appreciate the ones left living that much more. Suffering purifies, I do know that.
Lu


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