On Friday morning, my wife and her sisters gathered at the funeral home to make the arrangements for their mother’s wake and burial. I went along, as did another sister’s husband. Two of the women had been through the process fairly recently when they planned their brother’s funeral at the same location two-and-a-half years ago.
Our meeting with the funeral director began at 11:00 a.m. There was a lot to discuss before the 1:00 p.m. printing deadline. In addition to the text for a death notice in The Washington Post, we needed to submit one photo for prayer cards, ten photos for a tri-fold brochure, and twenty-five photos for a DVD slideshow that would play during the wake.
In the course of searching for pictures, the combined families came up with around 250 photos. We decided to set up an additional slideshow on my wife’s laptop computer, which we would place in another area of the funeral home.
As we went over some details, I must have said something to break the tension. When we got to the listing of names for the death notice, my wife suggested that her husband’s name could be listed as “that joker.” Later, when someone said her knee felt stiff, the funeral director laughed and said, “don’t say that around here!”
One of the sisters brought a pink dress that my mother-in-law had worn to a family wedding in 2012. They ordered a spray of flowers and picked out a casket. The family already had a burial plot next to my father-in-law’s grave. We were told that the cemetery requires either a grave liner or a burial vault.
Apart from the group, I asked the funeral director some specific questions about caskets and vaults. My curiosity got me labeled by the staff as “the guy from Tennessee who knows a lot.”
The planning for the funeral Mass would come the next day at the church. I helped them get a head start by searching online for appropriate Bible readings. There is a booklet called Through Death to Life by Monsignor Joseph Champlin that many parishes use. It contains several choices for Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel readings.
For my mother-in-law’s funeral, they chose Isaiah 25:6, 7-9 as the first reading; Romans 5:5-11 as the second reading; and John 14:1-6 as the Gospel reading. My wife chose to sing her mother’s favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night,” as a prelude. She and Frank Jr. decided to sing a duet of “Panis Angelicus” as the Communion hymn, like they did in 2012.