An Overview of Modern Day Wakes
A modern wake is, essentially, a celebration of the deceased. Friends and family gather together. A wake involves good food, good friends, and, above all, laughter. It’s a time for swapping stories about the person who has died; sometimes serious stories, sometimes humorous ones. For some people, it becomes a chance to counterbalance the sorrow of losing a loved one with the joy of having known them in the first place.
A wake is sometimes considered synonymous with a visitation or viewing. However, visitations and viewings tend to be subdued gatherings and are often held at a funeral home the day before the funeral or immediately preceding the funeral.
Holding a wake is something that must be considered carefully. For some, the idea of essentially having a party before the funeral is disrespectful, even calloused. Some people will be offended if you hold a wake and offended if you don’t invite them. Death is a sensitive issue, and end of life issues must be handled with sensitivity.
Whether or not to hold a wake is the decision of the next-of-kin. However, a close friend or relative can help the next-of-kin make that decision and should be in charge of most of the details if the next-of-kin decides to hold a wake.
When holding a wake, it’s important to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where people can feel comfortable swapping stories and just talking about the deceased. A home is the best place to host a wake. Larger venues are rarely as comfortable and casual.
A wake is a deeply personal matter. It can be a beautiful time of loving and letting go; it can also hurt and offend. But, rightly handled, a wake can be the right way to remember the deceased.