I DON'T WANT to look at the dead body.

Two wakes in four days. For people I didn’t know. But my wife is friends with someone they were related to, so I’ll put on my good clothes, say awkward cliches to the family, and stand around for an hour in the middle of a crowd of people I don’t know.

But I’m NOT gonna go in there and look at the fuckin’ corpse!

What the hell is wrong with you people? The person is DEAD. Dee. Eee. Dee. Dead. WHY, in the name of all that is perverted, twisted, and sick, do you have to keep the lid open on her final resting box? All you get to see is the wasted, shrivelled husk that used to contain a vital soul. That soul is gone now, so what can it possibly do for you to hmm-and-haw over “how good she looks”. What does it matter? After tomorrow nobody’s ever gonna see her again. And do you REALLY want your last memory of her to be of her dead body tricked out in satin and mahogany for your viewing pleasure?

The one on Firday night I walked by the door and accidentally looked in and saw her nose and forehead sticking up past the edge of the coffin. I felt myself turning green and my stomach flipped over twice. Had to trot outside to clear my head.

Sure, she may “look like she’s sleeping”. But you can’t fool me. I know her flesh is already starting to decay. In a month what you see there in that box will be being happily munched on by all sorts of foul creatures as it dries out and moulders.

It’s so fucking sick. You’re all standing there remembering her life, but your inspiration to do so is her rotting husk. When my time comes, just promise me you won’t go through this arcane piece of vile tradition to reflect on MY life. Go look at a beautiful sunset. Drive into the mountains where I grew up and remember how muched I loved it there. Christ, lift a pint of really good beer if you want to remember me. Just leave my remains alone.

I quite agree. Do other countries have viewings, or is this uniquely American?

I have never deen a dead body that looked like the person had when alive. They all have that powdery, pinkish-orange makeup caked up to the hairline, weird lipstick (on men and women alike), and if you know how they keep the mouth and eyes shut and the eye sockets filled-out . . . Well, it’s all you can think of when looking at them.

I have in my will that—after all useable stuff is removed—I am to be promptly cremated. Or if I AM on view, I at least want it to be purposely startling—you know, face-down with glasses on the back of my head or soemthing.

We don’t have open coffins over here. However, most families choose to “exhibit” the corpse at the morgue a few nights prior to the funeral. Famila and friends can then, within the opening hours, drop by at their leisure and look at the stiff.

I guess you can tell by now I don’t really see the appeal either. But for some people, it’s part of the mourning process. More power to them, but I’ll be at the bar toasting to the departed, if you don’t mind.

I’ll second all that’s been said. When my grandmother died I flatly refused to go into the chapel until they closed the casket. My mother was put out by this but I held firm and responded that her last memory of her mother may be of her laying in a casket but mine was most assuredly not going to be that. I remember my grandmother as a vibrant, hell raising soul that was as entertaining and loving as can be. Nope, no open caskets for me. Ever. Period. End of report.

When I give up the ghost they are to take whatever parts may be of use to others and then cremate the rest. My ashes are to be spread in Tahiti (I’ve even set up provisions in my will to take care of the expenses for it).

Amen. At one of my grandmother’s funerals they kept the damn casket open at the cemetery. In summer. With flies. Yarrggh.

Incinerate me promptly, please.

Tygr, calm down a sec.

You are equating your physical reaction to almost a moral reaction. Looking at a dead person makes you ill, fine - doesn’t mean keeping the casket open is a bad thing. On a side note, you got nauseous seeing the desceased’s forehead and nose?!! Dontcha think that’s a bit of an overreaction? Seems to me you have an overdeveloped fear of death.

I’m no fan of the open casket myself, but I can see how some people need it. For a lot of people, it’s not a means of remembrance, but a symbol of finality - there’s the person, and that person is dead, and nothing is going to change that. Since denial’s the first stage of grieving, being confronted with the reality of the death of the loved one can be vital.

I don’t have this need, but one situation let me feel it. A very good friend passed away around five years ago in Saudi Arabia. He was in a bad car accident, and the casket was closed. All well and fine, but there was one thing - my friend was a CIA agent. As my friend had always been extremely secretive about this (obviously), his parents were a bit suspicious and opened the casket to confirm his identity prior to the funeral.

Anyhow, I felt no need to see my friend’s body, but I felt a little better knowing someone had checked.


I hate wakes. Even being Irish, when ‘wake’ typically means ‘go out and get hammered at the dear departed’s expense while telling randy jokes.’ For as long as I can remember, beginning with my grandmother at age 5, I have hated wakes and funerals. Reason being, I have a very, very inappropriate reaction around bodies.

I giggle. Uncontrollably. With a side of hysteria.

This came up about a month ago, when my hubby’s grandmother died. I managed to get out of going to the wake, but agreed to go to the funeral. On the way to the funeral home, I suddenly remembered that I ain’t in Kansas anymore, and they may do things a bit differently here (I’m originally from MA, living in GA). So, as nonchalantly as possible, I turn to hubby. “So, is this an open casket funeral?” Oh, yes, hubby says. Eeep, I say. And explain in a very small voice that I laugh at dead people. He asks why I haven’t worked this out in therapy. sigh IT’S NOT A DEFENSE MECHANISM, DEAR.

Oh, yeah, it was open casket. And dear old mother-in-law, wanting always to be the center of attention, forced me to sit by her in the front row (it was father-in-law’s mother, and MIL hated her, so I have no other reason for why she wanted to be right there). One foot away from the casket. No hubby to pinch me if I got out of hand (he was a pallbearer and sat separately). Crying, hysterical people all around. And I have all I can do to keep from breaking out into loud, braying laughter. I was okay, really I was, til the bizarre Baptist version of the funeral cheering section started up… (Preacher: “She was a good woman…” Cheering Section: “GOOD woman, oh YEAH!”). It’s a damn good thing that rocking back and forth while holding one’s head is applicable in so many situations. Then the coup de gras… the preacher actually said “We need more Christian funerals.” Hooo boy. Being a very persecuted Pagan in the Bible Belt, I can echo that sentiment. Almost did, in fact. Barely bit that one back. But hubby and I had a grand old laugh later.

You’d think that I’d be better about this, since I make a living out of playing with dead stuff on this plane and the next. But damn if the whole idea of ‘let’s play dress-up with Aunt Marge’s corpse’ doesn’t sit sorta wrong with me. I find the situation hysterically amusing. Regardless of the person’s age, gender, or what-have-you, they always wind up looking like the mortician from Phantasm had a run-in with Tammy Faye Baker’s stylist. And this is how we want to remember our loved ones? Harrumph.

Oh yeah, toss me into the fire after the Organ Team has its way with me.

-Bobkitty (who should probably look for a different career)

My “pseudo-grandma” (nice old lady who lived next door) liked to take PICTURES of the body. She once showed me a picture she’d taken of our neighbor Rose at Rose’s funeral. Thanks for the nightmares. She also had a viewing for Grandpa when he died, even though he’d wanted a simple cremation. I guess she was really into the show.

When I was a freshman in college, one of my aunts dropped dead of an aneurysm. It was all very sudden and upsetting – more so when I walked into the funeral parlor and THERE SHE WAS, right there in the entryway. No chance to prepare or even decide whether one wanted to view the body. Who made THAT decision???

Gotcha beat, gotcha beat!

In certain parts of the south, it is evidently de rigueur to capture one last ** photograph ** of the dear departed before they are laid to rest. And in fact, on the morning we went to bury my grandfather, my grandmother had her trusty little kodak clutched in her hand. My father absolutely demanded that she leave the camera at home.

On that same trip we made to bury grandaddy, the neighbors were kind enough to share their family albums with me, and sure enough, there were photos of Aunt Edna and Uncle Bill on the day they were buried, just as nice as you please.

Good heavens.

You brought up another isse when you talked about how awkward you felt even going to these things. I recently concluded that I am going to make it one of my “last wishes” that only people who really care about my being dead should be attending any wake or memorial service. I want everyone in attendence to actually be * grieving *, not just making an appearance.

And finally…** Tygr ** I think you do overreact a little. But no harm to it.


I have several pictures of dead relatives in coffins. Apparently, this is pretty common in Germany, where many of my relatives still live (I live in the US). When my grandmother died, my grandfather’s cousin in Germany asked for one of these pictures. I told her, that as far as I know, we didn’t have that particular custom here. The pictures are interesting, in a really morbid kind of way.

I’ve been to open casket funerals. They didn’t bother me too much. But when I die, I want my organs donated, my body cremated, and my ashes scattered in a lovely location. If someone wants to hold a memorial service, that’s okay. As long as my body doesn’t have to be there.


I did look at my grandfather when he passed (didn’t look a thing like the grandpa I remember), but I didn’t at the funeral of my friend’s husband and won’t at any, if I have any choice.

Afraid of death? Hardly. More along plnnr’s lines of remembering them as they lived, not as they died.

When my grandmother died this winter (a merciful death if there ever was one), grandpa had her cremated immediately. There was no funeral, no wake. We got together at my Dad’s house about 3 weeks later with the whole family and had a big ol’ dinner and all the scrapbooks and everything out. Much better way to remember her.


I don’t do dead people. I don’t do funerals either. I pay my respects to people’s lives. If they were partiers, I’ll go to a party. If they were quiet, I might go re-read a favorite book we shared.

If living people are affronted, tehy can shove it. You go weep over rotting flesh. I’ll be reading Tennyson out in the woods. Mourn how you will, don’t tell me how to deal with my grief. M’kay?

Consequently, I expect I’ll have a funeral for my aquaintences. My real friends can show up if they want, but I’d prefer the “go get hammered and tell raunchy jokes” kind of respect.

Death bed photos were very common in the last century and through the early part of the 20th. And I think they’re important-a part of history-seeing famous people when they’re dead, or for example, a picture at the funeral of a factory worker over at the Heinz Museum. It doesn’t bother me. It’s neat, actually. I also had a friend who had a brother who was stillborn, and her family had a picture of him in a hospital crib. It helped them.

I dunno…my dad’s a funeral director. Not all corpses look fake-depends on the make up artist. And no, I’m not kidding. Or what embalming fluids are used, etc etc. Eve-how DO they keep the eyes shut? My dad just says they just stay that way.

But then, I haven’t been at an actual funeral or wake for years. It’s been years since I’ve seen a dead body. Who knows?

“Eve—how DO they keep the eyes shut? My dad just says they just stay that way.”

—OK. Anyone who doesn’t want to be skeeved out, just go to another thread. The eyes and mouth are sewn shut, the mouth and cheeks puffed out with cotton batting, and the eyes filled out with “eye cups” under the lids (the eyeballs tend to settle back into the skull). Oh, and if an autopsy is done, the internal organs (including the brain!) are either shoved in a baggie into the abdomen or are replaced by stuffing.

Re: post-mortem photos. There’s a great book (can’t remember the name) of those, from the 1840s through the 1920s.

—The Queen of the Dead

Sometimes it’s NICE to be able to make sure.

“Yup, the asshole’s dead, alright.”

Full-body donation here. Don’t want family spending a dime on my death that doesn’t involve liquor or food. Really want to spend eternity as a skeleton in someone’s closet.

Death is not abhorrent. The ritualized viewing of a body is not fucking sick, nor is it vile. It doesn’t disrespect their life to observe how it ends. Nor does a viewing wipe away all memory of their life. Last memory is the last one that goes through your head before you yourself return to the earth.

There’s wailing and gnashing of teeth of “don’t judge how I mourn!”–a worthy sentiment–but yet, what is the OP doing?

I’d rather my body is cremated, as I’ve mild disagreement with pumping them full of chemicals to slow the inevitable return to dust. But even cremation, I’m troubled by; the energy in my flesh simply goes up a chimney. I’d want ashes scattered, so life would still make use of the carbon in the soot eventually, but I’d prefer a sky burial, really. More immediate. Not likely in the west, though, a pity.

I think people just like to scream about things. Anything. They find themselves thus screaming, and our nimble brains invent rationalizations about why the screaming only after the fact. Distress and physical queasiness are transformed into moral outrage and condemnation with sleight of mind so quick and automatic it’s easy to miss even when the owner of the brain is looking right at it.

I don’t think that’s vile or wrong. I just think it’s a little sad.


I knew most of that already, Eve but it’s still oogy.

But I did love yer idea about having fun with yer viewing. I laughed quite hard and that went far towards getting me past the “rant” mood of the OP. Vielen danke.

It actually made me want to take out my cremate request and instead have 'em put me in some sort of jack-in-the-box contraption so that I can pop up and shake their hand as they come by to ogle my mortal coil. Or some sub-dermal implants that will have me making faces at them.

Sua, you raised some interesting points. Firstly I’ll say that I’ve never had anyone close to my heart die. I’m not looking forward to it. So I’ll admit I can’t relate to the “stages of grief” that others may go through.

I wouldn’t call it a “fear of death”. More likely a “weak stomach”. Probably makes me sound like a pantywaist, but roadkill, carrion, cat litterboxes, plugged toilets, vomit, all those things turn me eleven shades of green, too. I may get yelled at for lumping those things in with dead people, but there it is. And lemme tell ya, I ain’t looking forward to that first diaper change. :slight_smile:

As far as over-reacting, well, I’ve held it in for four days. But going to the second one last night put me through the whole she-bang again. This here OP is the only outward sign I’ve ever given as to how much it gets to me. And it’s my first self-started Pit thread, to boot. I’ve really not been much of a “Pitizen”, I was just lookin fer somewhere to blow off steam and figured this was the place.

And dropzone, thanks for that. I think that quote will fit just fine on my tombstone. :smiley:

Eve, Guin, ever read The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford? Eve, you especially would love it, as well as her book of short essays, Poison Penmanship. Pop in a video of “The Loved One” and you’ve got yourself an evening!

Hey, Tygr, didn’t mean to imply that you ain’t allowed to vent in the Pit - that’s the point. If what I wrote implied that, then I apol… wait a minute, fuck you for making me feel guilty!



I’ll skip the viewing if at all possible.

About six years ago, my paternal grandmother was killed in a very bad auto accident (she died instantly from the impact). Dad’s side of the family is from the South, so there was still a viewing before the funeral. After being urged (I can’t quite say that I was forced, but it was close) to go to the viewing, I had a glimpse of something that will last me a lifetime. Honestly, I don’t think there would have been a makeup artist talented enough to have covered the damage to her head and body (she had massive head trauma). I know it was my grandmother’s body, but it wasn’t her. She was dressed in the outfit she wore to my first wedding. I still get teary if I dwell on it for too long, as I am now.

No… I’d much rather remember the person as he was living, and not in a casket, thankyewveddymuch.