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Death and social dynamics at a funeral

Death is a distant rumor to the young.  Andrew A. Rooney

Death is a weird topic to blog about, I know. But here goes.  So…Friday I attended the mock funeral of my oldest child.  Why in the hell would I do that, you ask? My son participated in a program called shattered dreams through his school. The program is an excellent way to send a message to teens about the effects of drinking and driving.  The students and teachers participating in the program reenact a fatal car crash, complete with emergency responders, mangled vehicles, and excellent props and make up.  Local news film clips can be seen here: http://www.timesherald.com/articles/2010/04/24/news/doc4bd27f036d96b232134458.txt and here: http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2010/04/25/news/srv0000008122051.txt. That’s my boy in the blue sweatshirt being covered by a tarp.

I participated in the mock funeral.  My son (along with another student and a teacher)  was one of the “victims” of the drunk driving accident.  The mock funeral was very VERY realistic. It was set up in the school gym, complete with funeral flowers, coffins (empty), and a minister.  The program flowed just like a real funeral:  people spoke on behalf of the “deceased,” the minister gave a brief sermon, and friends and family were in attendance (that’s me. and other parents).  At the end of the funeral was shown a very emotionally laden slideshow with photos of the victims. The slideshow was  accompanied by that depressing Sarah McLaughlin song that is played on all the ASPCA commercials.

Even though all of the participants signed up for the project and knew that the funeral was fake; the results were surprising. I surprised myself, even. I thought I was going to have to work hard to shed a few tears and I wanted my funeral performance to be believable to the teen audience-especially since I was now seated up front as the parent of one of the “deceased” (my son is a senior and has a following, according to him, and he told me that people would be watching me. Great.). 

I broke down immediately. One of my son’s band friends gave a eulogy.  And of course, she looked right at me while she gave it, crying the whole time. Now you should know, I’m not a mush gushy, boo hoo kind of person.  I don’t cry easily, if, at all.  And even though the event was fake, it felt real. Very real. By the end of the funeral service all of the participants were weeping as I’m sure were many of the student audience.  Which leads me to another weird part: As we left the funeral we exited in twos. Since I was sitting next to my son’s former health teacher, he and I wound up walking out of the funeral together. 

Walking next to a complete stranger after witnessing my own child’s “funeral” was awkward. I needed to be comforted (as I’m sure others did).  Had this been real life, my spouse or another relative would have comforted me on the way out of the service. But instead, we all filed out of the gymnasium and into the hallway. Alone.  To be sure, there were many of us in attendance, but I felt alone. I’m guessing others did too. We all kind of awkwardly looked at each other weep, wanting to offer a hug or a hand of support, but couldn’t; because we were strangers.  Except the teenage girls. They were able to comfort each other. Bless her sweet, little heart, my son’s band friend even came over and offered me a hug, which I sorely needed.

How peculiar this funeral was!  Later, while talking to my son and explaining how difficult this was, he asked why I didn’t hug his teacher. He didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t know this man and although he was also grieving, it would have been weird and inappropriate to hug this person. Or anyone else, for that matter. Strangers do not hug each other.  The bond that you might normally feel towards others at a real funeral did not exist, which heightened my discomfort. 

At day’s end I needed 6 or 7 cookies and several hours of “normal” life to recover from the event. As any parent knows, parents are not supposed to bury their children. I am very very very fortunate that this event was fake and my son came home after school. I know too many people who have lost a child from which I can only guess there is no recovery.  I am truly sorry for their loss.  I hope that the anti drinking and driving message (and all of our collective grief) was not lost on the teen audience. 

this was an experience i won’t soon forget.

Regarding Queen of Everything

Her highness is still queen of planet blortnick and also a MODEL.

8 comments to Death and social dynamics at a funeral

  • i hope that however schools participate it is effective. thanks for showing me so much bloggy love!

  • Mel

    Aww wow, I've heard of that sort of thing, but never actually seen it. At my school they'd have a coroner (I think that's who) come and talk and show all kinds of photos of bad wrecks and stuff, and one year they had this motivational speaker guy who was also a great artist… ah well. We did have a real funeral service thing though, for a girl in my class who had died (from spinal meningitis), senior year, and it was horrible, the entire student & faculty body were in or near tears, just a really rough time. I'm glad it was fake, though!

    Oh and I added you to my RSS feeds the other day. =)

  • even though it's such a strange thing to do, i'm so glad there are schools that do things like that. sometimes it seems like people don't care enough about issues like drinking and driving, which is so disheartening. hearing about the mock funeral makes me think there's hope in the world for my children. i'm glad your son's funeral was fake, too.

  • hi alexis thanks for stopping by! yes i am glad that schools do this program. i think more schools do. no one should have to lose a child (to drunk driving).

  • wow. totally inappropriate. that’s too bad, i’m sure they meant well. but otherwise i think it’s an excellent program. iwhen i was young the drinking age was 18.

  • tee hee, youre the ghost commenter!

  • My school had one of those. A few weeks after three students died in a car accident and another student died by hanging himself. The car accident was not caused by drunk driving, and the suicide had nothing to do with car accidents at all, but the timing was just…not appropriate. Grieving four classmates' actual deaths and then seeing the play was pretty intense.

    All these years later, I don't understand why people still drive drunk. It's not like they don't know better by now.

  • That really is me but I can't remember my Disqus password. Ugh.