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Fernandez Funeral Traditions


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Family Photo Album
The End...

While my grandparents are easy going people it has not been easy for them to give up there way of life, especially many of the funeral beliefs they held sacred. This is where all those clichés about time become important. It is true things never stay the same but most if not all of us want the things we hold the most sacred to stay the same forever, for example the sanctity of marriage, the innocence of small children, and in this case the funeral customs our families have practiced all of their lives. It gives them a sense of continuity a sense that when they die a little part of them will live on.

          Time has a certain way of changing things. In particular things that people believe are finite, for example, civil beliefs, religious beliefs, and even scientific beliefs. These are things that at one time or another people believed would last forever. Ideals that may have been the norm 100 years ago are today considered antiquated or just plain obsolete.

          Religion is a large part of any culture, especially Latin cultures. Religion plays a huge part in the format of a funeral. The last three generations of my family have seen religion go from taking a large part to take a not so large part in the actual ceremony. From my grandmothers description of a funeral she went to when she was nearly 25 years old she explains that religion was a large part if not the largest, however, she says in comparison to todays Cuban funerals there seems to be a lack of religious respect.

          While a priest still does preside over our families funerals it is in more of a figurative aspect rather than an actual religious activity. This is a complete opposite of what my family portrays and has portrayed for years in regards to their beliefs. My parents believe in a higher power but the question is what religion are they? They sent my sister and me to catholic school, but we never went to Catholic Church. This is just one example of our families supposed closeness to the Catholic Church. Obviously every family that came from Cuba has had to change their customs in one way or another, and my family is no exception to this rule. From generation to generation, a little something gets lost at every funeral.

          Religion at this point is an after thought in my generation. The more visible things nowadays are party/wake, the loud talking, and the Cuban coffee, which has become a staple at the funeral homes. I have been to three funerals all of them extremely depressing and humanizing. However, one funeral in particular I will always remember. My great-grandmothers, this has been the only funeral, to date in which I have had an active part in the service itself. I was not close to my great grandmother, but she did not have many living family member remaining so I had to help carry the casket. This is an duty for which I hold high respect, and I saddened me deeply that she did not have any friends or close family there to carry her in her last earthly situation.

          The way it seems to work is that religions so-called time, in my familys funerals, has come and gone. As it stands today we have come full circle from the day of my grandparents deeply religious ceremonies to our almost secular ceremonies today. This is neither good nor bad this is just how it is. Since change is the only constant I do not believe that it is our neither job nor responsibility to judge rather we are just here to participate.

          The other major change in my families views on funerals has to do with how our family is no longer as close as it was when my grandparents where young. For one thing we have family in New York as well as California which precludes large gatherings at funerals. The other issue is, truthfully, a lot of the family no longer gets along how it once did. In my grandparents youth everyone was close based on the way they talk about their youth, now there are people who they havent spoken to in years.

          While change is easy to accept because it is just a fact of life, what is not easy to understand is how things have changed over such little time. My main argument on how change happened so rapidly is the change of location as well as the need for the family to acclimate itself with the American customs. The need was so pressing that many of my grandparents and parents ideals and customs have been lost.

          Some argue though that family closeness has long been disappearing in American society. The family as it was in the mid 1900s is slowly disappearing. Respect which was something that was huge in my grandparents childhood, is something that today is important but not in the same way. The reason this is crucial is because every culture has a sense of responsibility to the dead, and it feels that sometimes Latin people, Cubans in particular tend to loose track at the funeral ceremony and turn it into a party. At the wake the food, drinks, and gossip are more central the deceased.

          My mother and father have been to countless funerals, and they are all the same. They have the same setting the same behaviors and the same attributes. Essentially some of the main changes are only in the faces of the people who attend the wakes and burials.

          So basically from the time of my grandparents, through my parents, down to my sister and my generation things have changed. Change is good though, it shows that our family was able to come to this country and become accustomed to many of the American customs this country has to offer.  My grandparents argue that there is a lack of reverence for the dead, I beg to differ. I think my generation has just changed the boundaries of how one pays their respects.       

          In the end the three different changes in my families funeral practices all tie in together. Together they represent a new era in the way things are done at the funerals of our family members. In the end the way things are now is not how they will be three generations from now. They will change. Many things will come and go. One of those things being the way we behave and revere the dead at funerals. Only three things remain certain death, taxes, and change.

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