I went to my second Armenian funeral last week, for the 21 year old deacon who died. The first Armenian funeral I attended was for my grandfather, and it was an Armenian priest that my family had flown into town to do the service. (Hayr Simeon is a great guy, by the way, and I love his philosophy on getting people involved with the church. If you live in the Providence, RI area, you should definitely check out his church.)
The viewing was on Wednesday night, and the funeral was on Thursday. Wednesday night wasn't really a "viewing," though, as the casket was closed, and it was mostly people talking about this young man (some in Armenian, and some in English), like would happen at a regular funeral. Even the Archbishop was there. The church was PACKED both Wednesday night and Thursday morning. I sang with the choir on Thursday- We sang just Kahanayk and Ee Verin Yeroosaghem.
Ee Verin Yeroosaghem is probably one of my favorite hymns in the Armenian Church. The translation is:
In the Heavenly Jerusalem, in the abode of angels, where Enoch and Elijah live dove-like in old age, being worthily resplendent in the Garden of Eden; O merciful Lord, have mercy upon the souls of our departed brethren.
The imagery is so beautiful- angels, doves, resplendent gardens... it's a reminder of beauty in an otherwise pretty gloomy service.
There is a big difference between funerals for old people (like my grandfather) and young people (like this 21 year old deacon). You expect old people to die; that is what happens when you are old. You don't expect young people to die; you expect them to graduate from college, travel, buy first houses, get married, have babies, get promoted, etc. Funerals for young people are shocking to the system. Even if it's not your first funeral for a young person, it's still pretty horrifying. Just seeing all his young friends, only about 5-7 years younger than I am, going through this was just really upsetting. There was a huge HUGE presence of the Homenetmen; they had the flags of all the local chapters, plus another one from elsewhere in the state, on display by the coffin, all the scouts were there in their uniforms, and they had draped a Homenetmen flag on his coffin.
Almost all the service was in Armenian again, except for one of the priests (the former priest of this church), who graciously translated his speech into English. This was much appreciated by me (and I am sure by the deceased non-Armenian friends), not only b/c it meant that I would understand what was going on, but because I didn't really know this young man, so it was nice to hear comments from people who did know him.
I was fine until the end, when his pallbearing young friends went to get the coffin. No one should have to be a pallbearer for their friend at that young of an age. It is just not fair. I started crying, and his mother lost it. The family was practically restraining her from throwing herself on the coffin. She was screaming and crying. Naturally. At first I had kind of a negative reaction to this, but then I thought, "If there is ever at time when screaming and bawling is warranted, it's now. Why should she try to hold everything in? Let her scream and cry." I told my husband this, and he said that he was reminded of the show Six Feet Under- whenever anyone at a funeral starts to lose it, David will hurry them off to the private room off to the side so they don't make anyone uncomfortable, and Nate gets mad, because it is all so fake to stifle grief like that. Death is sad. Let people be sad.
There was a lot of emphasis in the services on "he is in a better place now." This always annoys me, because this is supposed to make me feel BETTER? I am selfish- I want (whoever) here with me NOW. I told my husband that if I die early, my funeral is not to be entirely in Armenian, and that none of this "better place" crap.