The Perfect Viewing

I hadn’t planned to go to my father’s viewing tonight, but when my plans for a private memorial with my father’s long time health aid didn’t work out, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to drive the two hours to where my family was gathered. In the end, though, I couldn’t force myself go to the viewing. I’d said my goodbyes during the hours before he died and then during the hours afterward while we waited for all the end of life tasks to be completed (pronouncing him dead, arranging for the mortuary to come get him, etc.), and anything else would seem like voyeurism.

When everyone took off for the mortuary, I headed down to the beach, watched the eternal tides washing up on shore, watched the sun set. As I stood there, I could feel the cycle of life, could see that all things end, not just the day, and so after all, it turned out to be the perfect viewing.



Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

8 Responses to “The Perfect Viewing”

  1. LordBeariOfBow Says:

    Yes I believe you are right, the perfect viewing indeed.

  2. Paula Kaye Says:

    I feel the same. I say my good-byes and never attend a ‘viewing’. Your ‘viewing’ was a beauty!

  3. rami ungar the writer Says:

    When it comes to death,no one should do anything that makes them uncomfortable. You did what you had to do and you did what you felt was good for you. There’s no shame in that.

  4. Constance Koch Says:

    As a child, I did not like to go to funerals. I wanted to remember the person as they had been to me in life. My Mom had conflict from people on this, but never made me go. I don’t particularly like viewings. I usually go to the service, and avoid the viewing.
    Photo: Ocean Scene, very calming and peaceful. A better place to be.
    It is best to do what is good for you, not others.

  5. mickeyhoffman Says:

    I applaud your choice. The two times I attended a “viewing” were not planned. I would never intentionally participate. First time was in my teens, when the father of an Irish friend died. I went over to the house, unknowing, unsuspecting, to give my condolences and she took my arm and said, “Let’s go see Father.” Before I knew it, I was standing in front of an open coffin. Next instance was on my first visit to China, the one time I went there as part of a tour. The group was led to Mao’s memorial and I didn’t know they had his body on view in there. When I got out I was crying, half from shock and half from feeling pity that they’d do something so gross. The guide thought I was touched by love of Mao. What could I say?

  6. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    I have always felts that the loved one is not really at the mortuary and would prefer the kind of perfect viewing you describe.

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