What happens when you die?

EVER wondered what happens after we die? Here’s everything you need to know, from what happens to our bodies to if there’s life after death.

By Reiss Smith

Scientists have worked out how our bodies decompose after we die
Scientists have worked out how our bodies decompose after we die

What happens to your body after you die?

Medically speaking, death happens in two stages. The first, clinical death, lasts for four to six minutes from the moment a person stops breathing and the heart stops pumping blood.

During this stage, organs remain alive and there may be enough oxygen in the brain that no permanent damage occurs.

The second stage of dying, biological death, is the process by which the body’s organs shut down and cells begin to degenerate.

Doctors are often able to halt this process by cooling the body below its normal temperature, allowing them to revive patients before brain damage sets in.After 12 hours, skin loses its colour and blood pools at the lowest point of the body, causing red and purple bruising.

Before this, rigor mortis sets in, making the body stiff and rigid. This is caused by calcium leaking into the muscle cells, which binds to protein and causes them to contract.

Unless the body is embalmed, it will start decomposing as soon as blood stops flowing.

A process called putrefaction happens after bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract eats through the abdominal organs, releasing horrid smells which attract insects.

Maggots laid by blowflies eat the rotting body tissue and can consume 60 per cent of the body’s tissue in a few weeks.

The remaining parts are then eaten by plants, insects and animals, which can take a year or more depending on how the body has been buried.

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What happens to thoughts after you die?

Scientists have conducted much research into what happens to consciousness after death.

Reddit user r00tdude wrote: “It was just black emptiness. No thoughts, no consciousness, nothing.

Is there life after death? What do Christians, Muslims and other religions believe?

Without any scientific evidence of an afterlife, many religions offer their own explanation as to what happens after death.

Christians believe that after dying, spirits are sent to heaven or hell depending on their Earthly behaviour.

Depending on which strand of the religion you ask, sinners are sent to hell either for eternity or until they have repented their actions. Those who have lived their lives according to Christian principles will be sent to heaven.

Catholics believe in the idea of purgatory, a place between heaven and hell where sinners first go to repent for their wrong-doings.

Bodies decompose quickly unless they are embalmed
Bodies decompose quickly unless they are embalmed
The Islamic faith teaches that Allah will raise the dead on “The Last Day” – a date known only to him. On this day, he will judge all souls and send them to either paradise or hell.

Muslims believe that until then, the dead remain in their graves, where they will be sent visions of their fate.

According to Buddhists, spirits are reincarnated into new bodies until they achieve enlightenment. Upon doing so, they will exit the mortal coil and reach Nirvana – an “incomprehensible, indescribable, inconceivable and unutterable” place.

Many religions believe in the idea of an afterlife
Many religions believe in the idea of an afterlife
Unlike most religions, the concept of an afterlife isn’t central to Judaism, instead it focuses on actions made in life.

There are some mentions of an afterlife in the religion, but not one divided into heaven and hell.

The Torah talks of an afterlife called Sheol – a shadowy place down in the centre of the Earth, where all souls go to without judgement.

Complete Article HERE!

Opting for a funeral at home: Challenging cultural norms

BY AMY WRIGHT GLENN

HOME FUNERAL

Originally from East Montpelier, Vermont, writer Lee Webster didn’t foresee leading a national organization that provides how-to guidance on caring for the dead, particularly from the comfort of one’s own home.

While Webster volunteered with hospice for years while writing for educational and conservation organizations, she never questioned standard American funeral practices until the day these interests converged.

What led Lee Webster to question commonly held assumptions about funeral rites? What exactly is a home funeral? And why are a growing number of Americans returning to the practice of caring for their own dead?

In courses I teach on pregnancy and infant loss, I highlight the practice of home funerals as potentially healing and positive rituals that bereaved parents can embrace. I often share this moving story of the home funeral of a 5-month-old baby named Burton and refer people to the work of theNational Home Funeral Alliance.

Since 2012, Webster has served on the board and most recently as president of the NHFA – an organization whose growth represents a paradigmatic shift in how Americans understand death/dying. In this interview, Webster reflects upon the significance of home funerals and articulates a vision of how we can care for the dead in a way that is “intentional, well-informed, responsible, and transformative.”

Let’s start with the basics. What is a home funeral?

Home funerals have to do with family-directed caring for, and honoring of, the deceased in the home after death occurs.

From the beginning of time, deaths were handled by close family members. Also, culturally designated after-death caregivers assisted the family in this work. Religious and community groups were often the first volunteer responders. Usually a birth midwife, or someone else known in the community as a healer, would offer support.

It wasn’t until the U.S. Civil War that the caring for the dead became outsourced and professionalized. This was primarily as a result of arterial embalming – which, incidentally, is the only thing professionals are licensed to do in caring for a body that no one else can legally do.

So, it’s legal for people to care for their own dead?

Absolutely, yes. Home funerals happen when next-of-kin exercise common law right to custody and control of the body. This is a fundamental American right that falls into the constitutional category of family rights, much like the right to care for children in the privacy of our own homes without governmental interference.

There are no legal obstacles to keeping or bringing a loved one home for a vigil period wherein the body may be bathed and dressed. One can have friends and family visit, or host a ceremony if desired, all at home. Also, home funerals don’t preclude standard or traditional observances that can be incorporated into the experience.

It’s important to note that there are unbroken traditions of home and community after-death care in religious communities. For example there are burial groups in the Quaker tradition and in the Jewish faith, the Tahara washing is central. Also, in some places in the U.S., professional funeral service is out of reach, so neighbors and fellow church or civic organization members volunteer to help with laying out the body and burial.

Why is interest in home funerals growing? 

There is no way to determine the statistical growth in home funerals – no office of statistics tracks this. But we do have observations that indicate a strong increase in awareness and favorability of home funerals.

“(Home funerals are) a fundamental American right … much like the right to care for children in the privacy of our own homes without governmental interference.” – Lee Webster, president of NHFA

We are seeing a steady increase in interest of people from every socio-economic and age level searching for more environmentally, culturally, financially, and spiritually satisfying after-death experiences. There is a simultaneous and systemic embracing of death and grief as normative processes in life, not as illnesses to overcome. These shifts are forming the underpinnings of the movement to bring after-death practices back into our own hands – and homes.

You mention the historical role of birth midwives in supporting families through death. Do you see parallels between the home-birth movement and the home-funeral movement?

On the surface, there are certainly similarities. For example, those drawn to home birth and home funerals often desire self-reliant, natural, and empowering life-threshold experiences.

However, I feel it is an inaccurate comparison for several reasons, chief among them the obvious difference in physical, moral, and legal care and responsibility for a newborn life and the life of its mother (compared to that of) a dead body. The education required to know where to place the dry ice on a dead body doesn’t compare with the education required to prevent death or catastrophe for a mother and child.

There is a fundamental legal problem with the analogy as well. Birth midwives were absorbed, for the most part willingly, into the medical model and remain a part of that model today. Home funerals and home-funeral guides are not aligned with the medical community. Once the body dies, it is no longer part of the medical wheel, except when organ or body donation occurs. Instead, home funerals are offering an organic alternative to a licensed funeral profession that has no medico-legal authority over families who choose to go it alone, minus a small minority of states that stipulate a funeral home official sign the death certificate.

How were you drawn to this work? 

My personal path to advocating for home funerals is based upon many years of service as a hospice volunteer, hospice spiritual care coordinator, and active conservationist. These interests converged while listening to a National Public Radio interview with Mark Harris focusing upon his book “Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial.” From there I learned about home funerals, non-invasive ways to care for bodies, and family-directed care.

For me, home funerals became a social justice issue that revolves around fundamental human rights and environmental imperatives, as well as a pragmatic way to solve financial and logistical problems.

Finally, I am a strong believer in the revelatory power of discomfort. I also believe that facing death on our own terms rather than outsourcing it creates opportunities for healthy grieving. Seeing the light go on when people realize there are positive alternatives to expensive, outgrown, and downright dysfunctional methods of caring for our dead and their bodies appeals to me.

Yes, offering meaningful options to people in times of grief is so important.

Choice matters. I have a deep Yankee quality of self-reliance and a disdain for being told what to do or think. I have come to the conclusion that the blind acceptance of our myths around funerals doesn’t serve us.

How do home funerals challenge what we’ve been told to think about the dead?

The first challenge relates to decades of misinformation and false mythology about the dangers of dead bodies. The fear that a dead body becomes instantaneously contagious is so ingrained in our culture that even our TV and movie programming perpetuates it in both subtle and blatant ways. Few know that the World Health Organization, for example, affirms “the widespread belief that corpses pose a major health risk is inaccurate.”

The other cultural assumption that home funerals challenge is the myth of the helpless mourner. Since the invention of the funeral industry, we have bought the storyline that we are necessarily and organically helpless in the face of grief. But it’s not true. Not everyone is devastated, paralyzed, or beyond coping. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they have a plan for coping.

An emerging narrative that some home-funeral family members express is that they want to immerse themselves in the experience purposefully and experience the discomfort of grief as a catalyst for growth and purposeful action. They want to meet death head on. In fact, this is probably the primary reason for why people choose home funerals – to feel useful and connected.

Both cultural norms view us as victims, with the funeral profession as the only savior. While families are encouraged to partner with professionals for anything they wish, the move toward taking more personal responsibility represents a fundamental shift in our relationship not only to death itself but also to those we choose to partner with in meeting our needs.

Are there commercial interests that may be threatened with the growth of home funerals?  

Ostensibly, professional funeral business would appear to be threatened by home funerals, but I believe the opposite is true.

First, not all deaths are easy and tidy, and not all families are candidates for a complete do-it-yourself funeral. Even highly motivated families may find that the timing and logistics are just too much to manage on their own. So professionals can assist families in planning home funerals. After all, serving a bereaved family is the heart of death work whether you are paid for it or not. It’s not about any rigid requisite for the number of days one can keep a loved one at home, what kind of cooling technique is used, or how many hoops the family can jump through to get paperwork done within a mandatory time period. It’s about meeting the family’s expectations and desires for an intimate and authentic experience at home.

Home funerals present an opportunity to serve the family in a myriad of ways that can’t occur if the deceased is whisked away when the family chooses direct cremation or immediate burial to save money. Home funerals slow the pace, allow family to gather, give them time to think through what they want and act on it – all at little to no cost to the family or loss to the professional.

Add the possibility of including home-funeral guides to established practice and you have more growth potential, not less.

What are home-funeral guides?

Home-funeral guides are educators who consult, coach, demonstrate, and provide information that empowers families to care for their own if they are unaware of details of the practice.

Home-funeral guides don’t aspire to be pseudo-funeral directors. They don’t direct anything or anyone. Instead, they act as resources for people who are unfamiliar with the practical skills and possibilities for caring for their own dead at home. The ideal is for families to be prepared as a matter of course with the necessary information and the confidence to do it themselves, but home funeral is not a household word – yet.

What are the main misconceptions about your organization’s work?

The greatest misconceptions are that we are fringe people looking to shock or challenge people’s sensibilities and go up against the established funeral industry. Neither is the case. We are looking to unveil realistic options about a topic that has been mystified for decades to people regardless of their ability to pay or their religious or spiritual leanings. We hope that the industry listens to what the public is demanding by responding with real change from within.

What we mean by “funeral” is changing. No longer do we jump to the assumption that a funeral means a specific service in a religious building, organized by a hired professional. Through the lens of home funerals, we are beginning to envision the entire funeral period, from death to disposition, as a time filled with possibilities for caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of both the deceased and the bereaved.

Any final words of advice?

Well, there are no funeral police, so I encourage people to overcome the fear that they are doing something wrong when exercising their legal rights and responsibilities to care for their dead. Ultimately, it is a privilege to offer this last act of loving care.

How can people learn more about home funerals?

The NHFA website is chock-full of information, including directories of home-funeral guides, teachers and trainings, celebrants and more, plus articles, interviews, videos, how-to guides, and other written materials to get people started. We have an active Facebook page, a monthly newsletter and opportunities to connect with others at our biennial conference and monthly call-in programs. No one need go it alone – there’s plenty of support ready and waiting.

Complete Article HERE!

I’m a Funeral Director. And Yes, My Stories Are Insane

By

funeral director

For something that literally happens to everyone, death is a remarkably taboo subject in American culture. It makes some sense, though. Who wants to think about the lights going off permanently, let alone deal with the actual logistics of dying?

That’s why I’m here. I’m a funeral director. I help you with the things you don’t want to deal with. No, it’s not exactly like Six Feet Under. Yes, you have to go to school to be a funeral director, at least in New York State. Everybody always seems surprised when I tell them that — maybe they think any guy selling bootleg Yankees hats off the street could throw on a suit and start handling funerals and grieving families.

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That’s ridiculous, for a lot of reasons. Not only are you dealing with dead bodies, which, beyond being frightening to most people, can also be host to all kinds of diseases, but there’s also the governmental red tape and transactions that could see tens of thousands of dollars changing hands. It’s certainly not a career someone could jump into blindly and excel at… especially given some of the situations I encounter regularly. These are just a few slices of what it’s like to be a New York City funeral director, one of the most overlooked, but essential, careers a person can have.

A normal day is never what YOU think of as a normal day

>For starters, I want to clear something up: every now and then I’ll run into someone who thinks it’s crazy that funeral directors charge money for what we do. It’s not. We do the job that other people can’t or won’t do. We provide a valuable service to the community. We’re not looking to rip you off, we’re just looking to be compensated for the work we do. Most people don’t have to deal with questions about whether they should make money in exchange for working hard, but death can elicit some strange behavior in the living.

My normal workdays are filled with events most people won’t ever experience in their lives. Picking up and tending to dead bodies, dealing with grieving families, taking funerals out to churches and cemeteries. To put it into perspective, remember that day at work when you spilled coffee on your pants and had to walk around with a huge stain all day? Well, my version of that involves throwing out a white shirt I was wearing because body fluid got all over it. The body fluid wasn’t mine. Yeah.

But, just like you, I have massive amounts of paperwork I have to do. After all, a job is a job is a job.

Hopefully you won’t have to attend too many funerals, but if you live long enough you’re almost certainly going to have face the music at least a few times. They’re rarely pleasant (except jazz funerals. Everyone should experience a jazz funeral — that’s how I want to go out.) but they’re a reality, and when you do have to go to one, there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your experience — and the funeral director’s — much better.

There’s no official dress code, but don’t push it

I understand that this nation is experiencing a full “dressing-down revolution,” but let’s evaluate. If you’re a male family member, a suit is almost a must. If you can’t wrangle a suit, slacks and a button-down are acceptable, but try not to dip below that. Polos are borderline and T-shirts are damn near disrespectful. I saw a guy walk into my place wearing an Angry Birds shirt, jorts, and Crocs. You’re going to a funeral, not a taping of Monday Night Raw. Put some effort in.

As for the ladies, just look nice. You have a few more options than the guys, but make sure it’s nothing too crazy, and NO JEANS. I swear I once had a lady walk in for a wake wearing a bikini and a cover-up that didn’t quite “cover up.” I assure you that anything you can wear to the beach isn’t appropriate to wear while standing in front of a casket. You don’t have to be a MENSA member to understand this.

Funerals are not the time or place for a buffet

In New York, we can’t have food in the funeral home. This isn’t just our rule, it’s also the New York State Board of Health’s rule. Food attracts bugs, vermin, and other unwelcome guests into funeral homes. We know this. The Board of Health knows this. The sign in our lobby is there so you know it.

This doesn’t mean “all food except the three dozen donuts and a box of coffee.” This isn’t Golden Corral. You should be able to handle going two or three hours without food — it’s why most wake times are split up, so you have a couple of hours for dinner in between.

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One day somebody tried to bring in four pizzas and a case of beer for a wake. I was tempted to let him in, because who doesn’t love pizza, but I had to stop him at the door. This led to my being cursed out in vile, creative fashion, but hey, those are the rules. And really you should know that pizza is only acceptable at a wake if it’s for one of the Ninja Turtles or Kevin from Home Alone.

Drinking, death, (and sex) go hand in hand, but know your limits

A lot of people need a nip or two to get through a funeral. It’s stressful, and sure, you might want to take the edge off. DO NOT DRINK TOO MUCH. Too many times I’ve witnessed people puking all over the bathrooms here. Years from now, you never want to hear the question, “Hey, remember at grandma’s funeral when you did seven tequila shots back to back at dinner and vomited into a potted plant?”

Things can get even dicier when sex is added to alcohol — death and sex have long been connected in art and literature, a truth I see lived out more frequently than you might expect. I had a funeral for an older woman who had a granddaughter about my age. The granddaughter was involved in the funeral arrangements, and during the afternoon visitation, everything went smoothly. As she was leaving, she invited me to a bar to join her for drinks between sessions, but seeing as I had to work the night session of the wake, I declined.

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Well, when she got back from the bar she was bombed. Staggering all over the place, knocking a plant down, slurring her words. It was bad. She mentioned something about needing to talk to me, but I blew her off, chalking it up to buzzed babble. When she disappeared for a while and the ruckus seemed to die down, I decided to slip off to my office to decompress.

Once I turned the light on, I saw that she was in there, sleeping. I woke her up (more or less to make sure she wouldn’t vomit in there), and she immediately clung on to my chest, talking about “wanting to thank me.” That hand on my chest surely made its way down to my crotch, and she was not letting go, despite my protests.

At that point, I knew I had to get her out of my office and off of my crotch, since no good could come out of this situation. I started to steer her out of the office by her shoulders while she began kissing my neck, making it out into the hallway. Luckily, one of her cousins saw me and pulled her away, and someone drove her home after that. At her grandmother’s service the next morning she couldn’t look me in the eye. Only after the casket was lowered did she come up to me and apologize.

Funerals are times for mourning, not violent grudge matches

Emotions run high enough during funerals, so don’t make things worse by continuing old grudges or starting new ones. One bad exchange can set off a powder keg.

I witnessed two brothers squabble over money from the minute they came in to make arrangements. The morning of the funeral it reached its breaking point. What started as a loud argument in front of the casket progressed to a screaming match in the lobby.

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By the time I got to them I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing — each brother was holding an unplugged floor lamp like a lightsaber, circling each other. It took me a second to process everything, but when I finally spoke up to tell them how ridiculous the situation was, one them smacked the other over the back with the lamp (I do have to respect the opportunistic nature of that fella), which led to a quick skirmish on the floor. It broke up pretty quickly, but it was neither the time nor the place for it — the correct time and place would’ve been the ECW Arena in 1997 — and everybody left feeling pretty embarrassed.

If you’re not hammered, violent, or blatantly rule-breaking, most other requests are OK

On the other side of the coin, if you have a special request for your loved one, don’t be scared to speak up. One person wanted me to play Nirvana on the way to the cemetery because it was the deceased’s favorite band. “Oh, and one more thing — CRANK IT.” You bet your ass I did it. There wasn’t a cooler hearse in the world that day. It got some strange looks from the people we passed on the street, but whatever.

I’ve received requests to wear a Mets tie while doing a funeral, to pass someone’s favorite bar on the way to the cemetery, to lead an entire collection of people attending a funeral in singing The Golden Girls’ theme, pretty much anything you can imagine. Have I rolled my eyes at some of the requests? Absolutely. But you know what? When you see how much it means to the family, it makes it all worth it.

People don’t really want to talk about death or funerals, and yeah, funeral directing is a strange job. Having your mortality thrust in your face every day you go into work gives you a pretty unique outlook on life. I don’t particularly mind the job as a whole — I wish it were more 9-5, but hey, I get to help people, and that feels pretty good.

Complete Article HERE!

Survivor’s Checklist After Death

A checklist of responsibilities for survivors after a death

By Angela Morrow, RN

After the death of a loved one, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the tasks that need to be done. While your grief can make it difficult to focus on these priorities and take action, there are several things that need to be done immediately after a death occurs, and in the weeks/months that follow. This article offers a simple checklist-style overview for survivor’s to help you prioritize and keep track of what needs to be done after the death of a loved one.

  • At the Time of Death, Make the Right Call

TO_DO_LIST

For deaths that occur at home, it’s important to know who to call. If your loved one is a hospice patient, call the hospice agency to report the death. A hospice nurse will come to the home and pronounce the death. The nurse might also call a mortuary for you and arrange for pick up of the body.

If your loved one is not a hospice patient, then you must call emergency services to notify the local police or sheriff of the death. A coroner or medical examiner might also be required at the scene if the death was sudden or unexpected.

  • Contact a Funeral Home

Whether a hospice nurse makes the call or you call yourself, a funeral home must be contacted to arrange for pick-up of the deceased’s body. If funeral arrangements have been made in advance of the death, all you will need to do is confirm the arrangements with the funeral director. If no funeral arrangements were made in advance, you will need to begin planning a funeral.

Determine if your loved one made any arrangements for a funeral or memorial service. If he or she did not make any advance arrangements, then begin to plan the funeral or memorial service. You might want to call on relatives or close friends to assist in making these arrangements. More »

  • Contact Attorney, Accountant and/or Executor of Estate

  • Contact Employer (if applicable)

Ask about any outstanding compensation due. Find out whether dependents (if any) are still eligible for health and/or insurance benefits and whether there is a life-insurance policy through the company.

  • Contact Social Security

Contact Social Security and any other agency that might be making monthly payments to the deceased. The Social Security Administration  (SSA) phone number is 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or you can visit the SSA website for more information. Find out if survivors are entitled to any further benefits.

  • Contact the Veterans Administration

If your loved one served in the Armed Forces, the Veterans Administration (VA)might offer benefits for funeral or burial costs. Stop any monthly payments that the VA might be paying the deceased.

Please read this article for more information about VA death, burial and memorial benefits for U.S. veterans.

  • Contact Life-insurance Companies and File a Claim

  • Notify Credit-card Companies and Pay Off Balances

  • Discontinue Utilities (if applicable)

  • Stop Subscriptions of Newspapers, Magazines, etc.

  • Forward Mail at the Post Office (if applicable)

  • Find Estate Documents

Locate and review any estate documents, including a will, trust and power of attorney.

  • Locate Important Financial Documents

Some financial documents to look for include:

  • stock certificates
  • title documents
  • bearer bonds
  • bank statements
  • brokerage statements
  • deeds
  • prenuptial agreement
  • Collect Asset and Liability Information

Examples of assets include life-insurance policies, bank accounts, investment accounts, real-estate ownership, retirement accounts, business ownership, etc.

Liabilities might include mortgages, owed taxes, credit-card debt, unpaid bills, etc.

  • Inventory and Distribute Personal Belongings

You might want the help of family members and/or close friends for this task. Determine which of the deceased’s belongings to keep, which to distribute to family and friends, and which to donate or sell.

  • File the Deceased’s Final Tax Return

Complete Article HERE!

‘Samseng’ son pens heartfelt poem as obituary for father

Mr Ong Tiong Yeow
Mr Ong Tiong Yeow with his mother Madam Han Boon Keng and his daughter Andromeda Wang.

SINGAPORE – Four hours – that was the time it took for businessman Ong Tiong Yeow to write his father’s obituary, a frank, heartfelt poem that has since gone viral on social media.

Four hours was also how long he took to pack his things and leave his family home as a 23-year-old, after his father Ong Peck Lye threw him out for standing up to him.

The elder Mr Ong, a wealthy rubber tyre businessman, died of pneumonia last Wednesday aged 82 and was cremated on Sunday (June 12).

He is survived by his wife Han Boon Keng, 82, a housewife, and three sons aged 46 to 54.

Mr Ong, 52, his second son, penned the tribute as a poem in first person, based on conversations he had with his father in his last days.

The verses depicted the complex humanity of his father, describing not just his charitable nature and flamboyance, but also his ego and conflicts with his family.

“I dared to live, and now I dared to die,” concludes the poem. “I am Ong Peck Lye.”

The obituary, which was in The Straits Times on Friday, was shared on Facebook by user Robin Rheaume and had garnered over 4,300 likes and 1,200 shares as of 8pm on Sunday.

Many were moved by the honesty of the poem, which admits that “My last days were dreary and weary” and that “I never got to see my father be/ A husband to my mother so/I made mistakes being both, trying to be as human as I know.”

The late Mr Ong was born in 1935 into poverty, fatherless from a young age. He worked his way from a slum along the Kallang River into prosperity after he co-founded the Stamford Tyres business empire.

He showered his children with privilege, but their relationships were complicated – at some point, he evicted each of them from their bungalow in Upper Serangoon.

Mr Ong said his older brother was thrown out after he converted to Christianity and married into a Eurasian family. His younger brother followed suit after coming out as gay. Both left Singapore, the oldest moving to Australia and the youngest to the United States.

Said Mr Ong: “My father died before he had the chance to ask my brothers to forgive him.”

He himself was ordered to leave when he fought with his father about the treatment of his mother.

He said: “The poem is also a tribute to my mum. My father bullied her, scolded her, kept mistresses – but she tahan (Malay for endure) until the end.”

Madam Han said in Mandarin: “We had good times and bad times. He was a generous man. I loved him and he loved me.”

Together, she and Mr Ong nursed her late husband through seven years of dementia.

Mr Ong said his father had asked him to move back home after a few years. “He got lonely,” he said.

He recalled returning laden with artwork from the beauty pageant franchising company he had set up, determined to show his father how successful he had been. “My father looked at me and said: ‘I don’t care about all this. I missed you.’

“After that, I did not leave his side again for 25 years.”

In the obituary, Mr Ong dubbed himself the “samseng” son, which is Malay for gangster. He said this was because in his youth, he was rebellious and did poorly in school. He was a prolific poet in his youth, having written more than 500 poems, though none were published.

When he was 16, his father bought him a pick-up truck and had him deliver goods after school from the godown to the docks. He would often have to go out to the ships and climb a few storeys up their sides to get the captain to sign the papers.

“He wanted to toughen me up, to show me the same hard life he had led,” said Mr Ong.

Mr Ong, who has a nine-year-old daughter, said he wrote the poem to share the lessons from his father’s life. “We have only one chance in life to be a husband and a father. We learn what we can from our parents, but we only have one chance to get it right ourselves.”

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Complete Article HERE!

The Son of a Funeral-Planner Explores His Dad’s Grieving Process

by

Funeral-Planner

Jesse grew up observing grief. He learned the most about it from his dad, a man who seemed not to express much at all. Here is how.


Lou was walking alone when he died of a heart attack. He was my dad’s brother-in-law, but they seemed more like best friends. My dad was Lou’s best man in his wedding, they’d talk politics, and they played music together. So, when my dad was put in charge of Lou’s funeral, it was no surprise that it became a multi-act musical tribute. Lou’s kids played, neighborhood kids got up, my mom and I performed.

We held in our tears during the funeral, since we had to perform. But then the final act began. It was a recording of Lou on piano and you could hear him breathing. I think it goes without saying that the last thing you expect at a funeral is to hear the dead person breathing. And so mom began to cry. I began to cry. Outside, as the funeral let out, we supported each other, sobbing. My dad remained inside, arguing with the sound crew.

At that point in our lives, my family had been been playing in my dad’s funeral band for several years. This was the fifth funeral my dad had planned. But what started as a genuine attempt to honor the departed had become hard for me to understand. I wondered if somewhere along the way to funeral director, my dad had lost his ability to grieve.

* * *

You could say it all begins with Johnnie. He was my dad’s older cousin and they were close. Johnnie was a charming kid who wore patches from yoyo competitions, did trick-dives off the diving board. When Johnnie would visit for the weekend, my dad looked forward to sharing a room.But there was also a darker side to Johnnie’s life. His mom was the daughter of a military officer and came from an abusive background, a tradition she seems to have passed on. There were rumors that she whipped him with belts and threw him against walls. When he was 1 year old, he had a broken leg, cause unknown.

Once Johnnie turned 18, he took off. No one heard from him for years, though snippets came down the grapevine that he had grown his hair out, discovered heroin. And then just like that, Johnny reentered my dad’s life. “I went out to one of the first fiddler conventions,” my dad told me, “and I got out there kind of early. I saw a guy dumpster-diving for food, and I took a closer look, and it was my cousin Johnnie.”

They spent the day together, talked about Johnnie’s family. My dad offered him a place to live and Johnnie accepted. But before long, alcohol starting disappearing from the house. I was a baby, my dad could be gone for long periods of time, and my mom, who had once dated an alcoholic, felt uneasy about the situation. “He had that, I don’t know how to say it, this jive, the lying, the part that I had been dealing with for so long with somebody who had that kind of addiction.”

My dad asked Johnnie to move out and once again he disappeared. From what we know, the rest of his life was spent doing odd jobs, battling addiction, getting arrested, and studying the Bible with a men’s Christian group. Then, on his 50th birthday, after relapsing, he went to Big Sur and killed himself under the stars. My dad took it hard. He asked Johnnie’s mother if they were going to have a funeral and she refused. She accused Johnnie of taking his own life just to get back at her. So my dad picked some songs, wrote a eulogy, and put on a funeral himself.

“Chat, rap, talk, spinning the yarn, that was Johnnie’s gift wasn’t it?” my dad’s eulogy began.

My mom and I joined my dad up front. We played an old folk song called “Hobo’s Lullaby” (I knew it because my dad would sing it to me before bed). The rest of the funeral went well. People stayed and ate dinner. Dad didn’t cry. He didn’t seem sad. He circulated around the room, calm, cracking jokes. But in the weeks that followed the funeral, he stopped singing “Hobo’s Lullaby.” When I’d ask for it before bed, he’d say, very nicely, “I can’t sing that song.”

I could tell something was going on for dad. I didn’t realize it then, but that song, “Hobo’s Lullaby,” was a brief window into my dad’s sadness. And then, just like that, it shut again.

* * *

A few years after Johnny’s death, my grandmother had a stroke and the process began again. This time the death took many months and my dad was put in charge of caretaking. Day by day, her body and mind broke down. He was by her side when she died. Soon after, we discovered that my grandmother had planned her own funeral. She not only requested specific songs, but specific people, including the family funeral band, to sing them. My dad arranged the performances and pushed us to practice. Then the day of the funeral arrived and to the surprise of everyone but my grandmother, 300 people arrived. We shook with nerves as we played. The audience clapped.

Afterwards, we packed the minivan with equipment and barely made the reception in the backyard of my grandfather’s house. People shook our hands and complimented us.

Once we played her funeral, the expectations were set. We played when my Uncle Tom died. We played when my grandfather died. And a funny thing happened, the more tragedy struck, the better we got. By the time Lou died, we were ready to really put on a show. But that window into my dad’s grief didn’t reopen and I was left wondering, once again, what was going on inside my dad’s head.

* * *

Years passed, we continued to play funerals. But as I got older, moved out of the house and struck out on my own, I began to resent my dad’s demands. I started dating, and I began to wonder why I had difficulty showing emotion. I knew it had something to do with my dad and that angered me. I decided: no more family band. I went on strike. And then a few more years passed, more dating, and I began revisiting the most important deaths and funerals of my childhood. And as I did so, I came to see my dad’s emotions, and mine, in a new light.

When I went to my mom and asked her about my dad, she told me something that happened to her the last time she was on stage. She is a very nervous person and when she’s performing with my dad, she searches the audience for someone she finds reassuring. But this time, during “Amazing Grace,” she did something different.

“I started looking around at different people and I could see that they were very moved. There was part of me that felt I did it right, using my own feelings to portray this song, to sing it, but also recognizing the effect my singing had.”

This got me thinking. Maybe, for my dad, performing is about experiencing grief. Maybe he can feel loss by seeing it in others; a kind of grief by proxy. Could that be it?

The final answer came later.

My girlfriend was driving and I put in a recording of the family band. As the music played, my parents’ voices coming through the tinny speakers, the emotion that swept over me came as a surprise. I felt proud. I watched my girlfriend’s face as the music played, hoping the music would bring tears to her eyes. “Listen to this one,” I said. “You can hear my uncle breathing. This one has my cousin on it.”

As I searched her face for a reaction, I remembered what my dad gets out of these performances. Yes, he feels pain and loss. He feels sadness. But it’s the performance that does that. It’s the performance that allows him to see his own pain through someone else’s eyes. And just like my dad, I was seeking this from my girlfriend’s reaction, this many years later.

And so, if I should lose someone close to me, here’s what you can do. Watch me play, let the music move you, and let me watch the music move you. Come up to me afterwards and let me shrug in modesty, crack a joke. Let me pretend I don’t care. But let me think, secretly: Yes, I’m the son of a funeral planner. Yes, I play in the Family Funeral Band.

Getting to know my dad in a deeper way allowed me to learn something about myself. We are not macho men, but we aren’t liberated men, either. Somehow, we learned to circumvent the emotional limitations of masculinity by performing our grief. It’s a work-around, we know.

It’s the best we can manage, for now.

Complete Article HERE!

What to Expect When You Come to the Funeral Home

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After you’ve decided on a funeral home and are ready to begin the process of planning a funeral, your funeral director will ask you to come into the facilities for a visit. This personal contact with the people in charge of your loved one’s remains is an important step in the grieving process. Not only will you get to benefit from face-to-face interaction, but you’ll also be walked through each decision ahead of you.

Although every funeral home operates differently, most visits take on a fairly similar format. Expect yours to look something like this.

  • Initial Telephone Contact: Almost all funerals begin with a phone call to the funeral home of your choice. Your funeral director will tell you where to come to make the arrangements, set up an appointment, and let you know what types of items to bring with you. These often include financial papers as well as personal effects.

  • Meet the Staff: Your funeral director will be there to greet you when you arrive. This individual will become your primary point of contact for all the funeral plans you have ahead of you—and he or she will also become your partner in grief. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and accept support when you need it. That’s what the funeral director is there for.

  • Make Arrangements: After you arrive at the funeral home, you’ll most likely be led to a consultation room. Offering privacy and comfort, this room is where your funeral director will walk you through the process of making final arrangements. Even if the deceased had everything pre-planned or laid out in a will, the next-of-kin will be responsible for solidifying all decisions.

  • View Caskets/Options: While catalogs exist to help you visualize the details of the funeral, many funeral homes also have showrooms where you can see the caskets, linings, and urns for yourself. Many people find it comforting to make a tactile connection to these types of items.

  • Go Over Payment Plans: Paying for a funeral is a costly affair, even if the deceased set aside money for the final arrangements. Once you’ve decided on the type of funeral you’d like to hold, your funeral director will go over your payment options. No matter how difficult, this is a necessary conversation, and you will have to sign contracts before things can be set in motion.

  • A Moment to Reflect: It can be difficult to make these kinds of decisions all at once, so never be afraid to ask for a moment to yourself. No decisions have to be made during this initial consultation, so if you want time to talk to family members, have the contract looked over by a lawyer, or to slow down and think things through, you have every right to ask for time.

You also are not obligated to sign up for any services at all if you feel like the funeral home might not be a good fit. Although you may have to pay for transportation and service fees if you choose to have the body transferred to another home, you’re never locked into a funeral provider you don’t like until the contracts are signed.

Complete Article HERE!