Death Anniversary

I was visiting with my friend who is Filippino, she was preparing for her trip back home to celebrate her mother’s first death anniversary. I was curious as to the process of this day, so we started talking about how death is celebrated in her country/culture.

In the Philippines, once a medical doctor has stated that a person is bedridden, the family takes them home to care for them. There are still home visits from the doctor during this time. After a person has transitioned, they are embalmed and brought back to the house. There are nine days of novena (prayer for the dead) as the family is gathered around the body. They pray for the soul to enter safely into heaven. They also pray for all the lost souls in Purgatory, so they can find their way to heaven. There is singing and some storytelling of the person’s life or how they impacted another’s life. They have lots and lots of food and celebrate the life of the one who transitioned. Then there is a mass celebration (funeral) and laying the body to rest. One year later on the anniversary date the family gathers together again to celebrate mass and enjoy more food, singing, stories, and pictures.

She shared some beautiful stories that started me pondering about the process of death in our society. It seems that there is so much fear and unknown regarding death and dying that we don’t want to deal with it and send our loved ones away to die.

When did we move as a society from caring for our loved ones in the home to taking them into the hospital to transition? Then it is off to the funeral home until the viewing of the body and the burial.

She also shared the closure that is felt by everyone by having the body in the home along with the celebration and prayers. I know that this is the way it used to be here in the states as well, although the thought of having a body in the home was a little shocking to me because it is such a foreign process to me now. Maybe we think of this process as less superior to our society? Maybe it is solely fear of the unknown? Maybe it is just because that is the way it is done now? Whatever the reason is that we don’t have that practice in our society; it made me rethink the way I would want to celebrate my loved ones, and how I would want others to remember me.

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