Witness and remember

McVeigh’s execution should be televised

After 30 years of directing funerals, I’ve come to believe in open caskets. A service to which everybody but the deceased is invited, like a wedding without the bride or a baptism without the baby, denies the essential reality of the occasion, misses the focal point. It is why we comb wreckage, drag rivers and bring our war dead home. Knowing is better than not knowing, no matter how difficult the facts; and seeing, it turns out, is believing. That’s what hurts, the heart-sore widow says of the body in the blue suit in the box. Births, deaths, marriages—the fashions of these passages change, but the fundamental obligations of witness and remembrance remain. And whether we bear witness to the joy or sadness, the love or grief, the life or death, the sharing of it makes the bearing of it better.

 

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