Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Death and taxes

My grandpa passed away on Sunday. He was a wonderful Godly man until Alzheimer's began to chip away at his memory and inhibitions 12 years ago. I am glad that he is with the Father now and he has his full capacities back, feeling better than we can even imagine. We had his funeral today, which got me thinking.....

1.Why do we spend all kinds of money on a posh box that is buried in the ground? It's a whole industry that is built on guilt. If you don't get the best casket and spend a ridiculous amount of money on it, you must not really love the deceased. In actuality, they couldn't care less. They are not in the ground, they are in one of 2 places.

2. Where did we get the tradition of bringing food to the grieving? So sorry your loved one passed, here's a casserole. Don't get me wrong...I love it. I've eaten very well the past few days. It just seems a little odd, don't you think?

Just some thoughts.


Anonymous said...

My parents told me they want to be buried in the cheapest pine box around, makes sense to me. And I think the food thing is to help out and give the family one less thing to think about.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry about the loss of your grandfather. Losing a loved one is always hard. We both want to be buried in the cheapest box they can find that we can fit in. I have often told George that he has loved me and taken the best care of me always and he has nothing to prove by burying me in a fancy casket. Buy the cheapest one they have. I want my kids to remember that also. I think Holly is right. The food thing is to help the grieving to not have to cook. Also, many people do not know how they can help and this is one way.

rachel said...

Due to the large number of second cousins, great aunts, second cousins once removed, friends of second cousins...you get the idea...who told me today at the funeral that they read my blog. People who I had no idea knew about my blog. I think I need to clarify myself. I love the food tradition, I even participate in the bringing of food to bereaved families. I've enjoyed the roasts, fried chicken, pies, etc. I'm just saying that it is a weird custom when you really think about it. I don't want to offend anyone.

Hillenblog's Wife said...

Rachel, I am so sorry about your grandpa. I did not hear of your loss til now, reading your blog. I like to believe that he has met my grandpas by now, and they are sharing stories.
Surely, no one is offended. I agree, it would be interesting to know where the tradition started. I also want the cheapest funeral possible. Really, as you said, I will not know the difference. The only request I have is to be buried at sunset if at all possible. Don't really know why, i just like the idea.

BrandyO said...

Sorry about your g-pa sweetie.

Linette said...

Rachel-I'm so sorry about your grandpa.

Hillenblog said...

Sunset...? And this is the way you tell me?

Hillenblog said...

Funeral Food

by Steve Turner
Walker Mortuary and Cremation Services

Becoming a funeral director is not an easy thing to do in Illinois. First, you need at least one year of college or thirty hours of college credit, one year at Mortuary Science School, and one year of apprenticeship with a licensed funeral director and then, finally, you have to take the Illinois State Written Exam. Now, that written exam has a reputation for being pretty tough – but we all knew that it was the final question on the exam that would decide your future. If you couldn’t answer that last question correctly – no matter how well you did on the rest of the exam – you might as well pack up and look for a new career.

What’s the question?

The all important question is: “Do you like H-A-M?” If you answer that question with a “no” you’re out! Of course, those of you who know me also know that I passed that exam with flying colors!

It’s always been interesting to me how much food plays into the ceremonies of our lives. You wouldn’t have a wedding reception without a cake. And you don’t have a funeral without little ham sandwiches, deviled eggs, casseroles, Jell-O salads and homemade pie.

There are many recipes that have been used so often for funerals that they have actually taken on the name of funeral or death. Funeral Pie is raisin pie made by the Amish, Funeral Potatoes are a potato casserole with cream of chicken soup, sour cream and lots of cheddar cheese, and Death Chicken is a traditional New Orleans dish. Many of you might be wrinkling your noses at the sound of these dishes and when my wife, Catherine, brought a pan of Death Chicken to a potluck, everyone looked at it with a cautious eye. But after tasting it – they all asked for the recipe. (If you want the recipe, give me a call and I’ll send it to you.)

I think you get the idea, funerals are about food. But you might be wondering why? I think that it’s because making food is one way to show love, when we feel inadequate at sharing it in other ways. And sharing food is a great way to share fellowship – like a big family meal. Food is the conductor through which we can share our sadness and our memories. Maybe we don’t know how to say, “I am so sorry your husband died.” But we know how to say, “I’ve baked you your favorite dessert,” or “I’ve made you a casserole.”

Food brings us comfort. How many times have you wanted a bowl of mashed potatoes or some baking powder biscuits smothered in butter and honey, just because you’ve had a really bad day? Or is your comfort food grilled cheese or chocolate brownies? Whatever it is – food brings the comfort we need. Funeral lunches are an integral part of the grieving process – as Emeril says – a food of love thing! Food is the setting that allows us to come together and start the healing process.

Food also represents tradition. What would Thanksgiving or Christmas be without food? The tradition of Grandma’s sweet potato recipe, mom’s Waldorf Salad, the way dad always sliced the turkey – these traditions give us the continuity that brings us comfort when the other parts of our lives have been changed. Perhaps that’s why we have traditions of what we bring to a funeral. My sister always makes barbeque and brings it to a family that has suffered a death. Gregg Walther’s wife, Dawn, always makes breakfast foods, because she realizes that everyone else usually brings dinner foods. Each one of us wants to do something to be helpful.

This is one of the things I love about being a funeral director. (Not the food, although some of you might look at my waist line and argue with me.) I love the sharing and the caring. I love seeing people at their best. I love seeing people taking care of other people. It reminds me that we do live in a wonderful place.

Thanks for listening!


Hillenblog said...

I can see your grandfathers face in Maggie. They favor one another quite explicably.

Hillenblog said...

Funeral Food
By Kim Parr

Records of funerals and food go back to Egyptian times. The belief that the soul remained connected to its remains made the offerings of food to the deceased seem necessary to keep the soul happy. (Funeral Customs, Puckle: IV: 100) It is the subject of funerals and food with its connection to the living that connects the majority of Americans today with our ancestors of the past. Food is an element that we yet find associated with funerals. We partake in this element without much thought or consideration to its origin. A look into the historic customs of some cultures allows us to note the element of food in association with funerals, its connection to traditions we hold today, and an awareness of the culture we live in today.
First we must note the significances in gathering for a wake. Typically gathering was for the purpose of offering prayers for the soul in the actual presence of the body, till the burial. The gathering of a wake also served the purpose to clear any suspicion on those present during the death. The viewing of the body by family and friends was an obligation.
The funeral feast, which was often referred to as an "averil" in the English language, meaning "heir ale" or succession ale, was not so much to commemorate the deceased, but to welcome the new heir. An often-considerable sum of money was left in the will to exchange liberal hospitality amongst the mourners in exchange for prayers on the departed soul. (Puckle: IV: 102-105)
The practice of adding food as an element of ceremony is accepted as an ordinary form of hospitality. This acceptance actually overlooks the origins of this practice. It is of no doubt that in days of old, travel to a wake was difficult, most likely costly, and could very well have been a dangerous undertaking. Due to the time needed to gather family for the burial several days could add up to a considerable amount of feeding or feasting. This of course would extend to stabling and foddering their horses. Necessity not solely hospitality was the origin of the funeral feast.
The poor too displayed what they could afford with the help of the invited mourners offerings of food to augment the feast. As a rule an averil was an unrestricted gorge. Often women ate separately from the men due to their over indulgence of liquor.
So what kinds of food do we find in relation to a funeral? This is a subject of difficult find. Most Etiquette books make no mention of food in connection to a wake, nor do books of suggested menus for occasions. In a most modern book entitled "How to be a perfect stranger" we can find to which faith it is appropriate to give food, but nothing is mentioned of the particulars. Information on the particulars is noted in brief on subjects relating to medieval times and of funeral practices. In one such book entitled "Fabulous Feasts" we find that a medieval bill of fare is quite pompish and not all eat the same food. Documents of the funeral collation commemorating Nicolas Bibbesworth, Bishop of Bath and Wells, on December 4th, 1424, laymen ate meat, his clerical colleagues fish. First meat course 1. Nomblys de Roo 2. Balmangere 3. Meat with mustard 4. Pork chop 5. Roast capon 6. Roast swan 7. Roast heron 8. Aloes do Roo 9. Swan neck pudding 10. Un Lechemete 11. Un bake
Second meat course 1. Ro Styuyd 2. Mannenye 3. Roast coney 4. Curlew 5. Roast pheasant 6. Roast woodcock 7. Roast partridge 8. Roast plover 9. Roast snipe 10. Grete byrdys Roasted 11. Roast larks 12. Bennysoun de Ro Rostyd 13. Yrchouns 14. Un leche 15. Payn puffe 16. Colde bakemete
First fish course 1. Eels in saffron sauce 2. Blamangere 3. Baked herring 4. Milwell tails 5. Ling tails
6. Jollys of salmon 7. Boiled merling 8. Pike 9. Great plaice 10. Leche barry 11. Crustade Ryal
First fish course 1. Eels in saffron sauce 2. Blamangere 3. Codling 4. Haddock 5. Fresh hake 6. Boiled sole 7. Broiled gurnard with syrup 8. Bream 9. Roche 10. Perch 11. Fried minnows 12. Yrchouns
13. Roast eels 14. Leche Lumbarde 15. Great crabs 16. A cold bakemete
Now this may seem that they had gorged themselves, but medieval banquet records deny this conclusion. Ostentation supersedes feeding. A tasting was more likely than that of gorging oneself (Fabulous Feasts: 20-24)
A bit of cheese, a draught of wine, a piece of rosemary and pair of gloves was considered as shabby averil in seventeenth century England. The poor usually would bake a special roll of bread, and left a plate on the table to which all present would contribute to a liquor fund to help defray the costs (Puckle:IV, 107)
Prunes are also mentioned as an averil dish. Their black skins made them appropriate for the occasion. A menu at the funeral of Oliver Heywood of Thoresby in the seventeenth century consisted of cold posset, stewed prunes, cake and cheese.
A special crisp form of bread was given at Belgium funerals known as "soul bread". Also in Belgium cakes were coated with dark chocolate icing and served on black paper mats with fretted edges. White wine was served to avoid the introduction of color.
Jewish funerals were discouraged from pomp display. Cold hard-boiled eggs with salt were only offered to the guests. The egg represented regeneration, while the salt was a very ancient token of incorruptibility.
In Poland the funeral feast is referred to as the stypa. Peas and noodles prepared with poppy seeds and honey are traditional foods. (Funeral Customs the World Over: Habenstein and Lamers: 451)
Hungarians passed out beans, peas, flour, and fat to beggars as part of their ceremony. (Habenstein and Lamers: 462)
The Romanians tradition is that of preparing the following; a fruit tree, known as a pom, a ritual dish called coliva, and unique ring shaped loaves of funeral bread called colaci. The fruit tree is made from a cleaned branch, which is then decorated with various fruits and sweetmeats. The ritual dish, coliva, is made of stewed wheat grains sweetened with sugar and honey and ornamented with various confections. The fruit tree and ritual dish were given as alms at the cemetery. The funeral bread was often placed at each place setting on the feast table with a candle set in its center. The Romanian funeral feast is called prasnic or comindare. This feast would usually include the deceased favorite dishes. (Habenstein and Lamers: 470, 475)

missy said...

i've always thought maggie favored the etheridges. which is weird, because she looks just like you and you are your father's daughter.

ToyHelen said...

Oh Rachel, I am so sorry, I did not know until now, reading this. If there is anything I can do...please let me know