Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

September 10, 2010

Funeral Parlor

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

I grew up one door from the funeral parlor.  It is not a term used that much today.  Today, we call it a funeral home or mortuary. 

The early use of the term referred to the place where friends could come to pay their last respects.  In older days, the deceased was usually placed in their own home where friends could come.  The room used in the home for such a time was the parlor or living room.  Later, there were homes for that specific purpose.  The “funeral” home provided a place for the body of the deceased to be prepared, and then the front room, the parlor, was used for the body to be placed for friends and family to come.   And most of the homes were also the residence of the funeral director (known then as the undertaker) and his family. Thus they were also called a funeral home.

This is a description of the home on my street.  The family lived in the big house.  The back half of the home was high enough off the ground for enclosed space  where the preparation took place.  The deceased person would later be placed in the family parlor where visitation could be held.  This was truly a funeral parlor.

There were not many funerals because it was a small town, but when there was one, it changed the activities of our days.  The family had five children.  Most of them were my general age and so we spent much time together.  The had the largest sand box one could imagine.  It was located just outside the window of the preparation room. We played many hours in that sandbox.  However, if the shade on the window was pulled down in the preparation room, we knew what was happening.  It seemed to affect our play.  It was not frightening to me, because we were allowed to go in and out of the preparation room when it was not in use.  I also was used to seeing a deceased person in the parlor.  But just knowing what was occurring in that preparation room seemed to have quieted us and brought us to a very somber mood.

Rarely was a funeral held at the home for most funerals were in churches.  But for those times the service was held in the funeral parlor, and those times of visitation, the children in the family had to either stay upstairs and be quiet, or come to my house or another neighbor’s.  Even at my house, we would go back of the barn and down by the railroad tracks.  And our games or activities were sedated.  We learned great respect in those days for the families and the deceased.

Those were also the days when respect caused individuals, usually a couple of men, to stay all night with the deceased in that parlor.  It seemed to me that my dad was always there for every wake.  It was always seen as a ministry to the families.  Perhaps it was because he knew almost everyone, and then, too, it was convenient for him to be there.  All this exposed me at an early age to death.  It embedded in me a sense of respect and compassion for those who died and their families.

Of course, death brings grief and sorrow; that is understandable, but in such times, we need not be frightened.  Fear comes when we do not understand.  God does not want us to be frightened by death.  He desires to take away such fear . . . and He assures us of comfort and strength at such a time of heartache and sorrow.  I am grateful for my early exposure to the process of death . . . and above, for the understanding God has given me about such a time.

 “Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  (Psalm 23:4)  “Do not let your heart be troubled.  Trust in God . . . .” (John 14:1)



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