by Anura Guruge
>> PLEASE donate your body to science — Oct. 12, 2013.
As some of you may have worked out from my posts, especially this one about donating your body to science, I, strange at the best of times, am incredibly strange when it comes to death and funerals. I really don’t care what others do, and I haven’t been to a funeral is over 20 years. All I care about is that I will NOT be having a funeral. I want my body to be picked up and taken away, with zero fuss, ASAP. Just one phone call. So I tend to look at funerals with somewhat of a detached manner. Recently I heard about a funeral that was being held, in this country, 11 days after the person died. That got me thinking. That, to me, seemed like a long time.
I know that there are certain religions that expect prompt burial — and I think one of them basically states that the body needs to be disposed by the first sundown. So, in that context, 11 days seems rather long.
As a papal historian, I am, of course, very familiar with the notion of novendiales [also novemdiales], the nine consecutive days of mourning following the death of a pope — though this typically starts, at least in ‘modern’ times, after the funeral of the pope. I chronicled the novendiales for John Paul II (#265), following his death in 2005, in my book ‘The Next Pope 2011‘.
But, the pope’s funeral per se was held on April 8, 2005, six days after his death on on April 2.
I then checked the most recent VIP — and all I could think was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Died December 5, 2013 and the final State Funeral was on December 15, 2013 — though for reasons yet to be explained nobody got to see any ‘close up’ images of his final, resting body. So those 10 days was a good reference point.
JFK — 3 days! Wow. Three days. I double checked this because it seemed so fast.
Ronald Reagan a total of six days up to his burial at his Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.
Gerald Ford, the last U.S. President to have died, four days — and one of those was January 1, 2007.
Richard Nixon five days.
Then, given that I do consider myself a denizen of the world, I checked some other world leaders.
Indira Gandhi four days.
Jawaharlal Nehru (who I had the honor of meeting and shaking hands with when he visited Ceylon in 1962) one day; died 14:00 on May 27, 1964, cremated May 28. Wow. But, I gather that was per religious requirements.
But, to be fair, given my nationalistic bias, the first dates that I checked were for, of course, dear Winston Churchill. I do remember, as a child in Ceylon, seeing a film, c. 1965, which I think had a title along the lines of “A Journey’s End” about his funeral. I have done a post about his funeral. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, DL, FRS, RA, the largest (known) State Funeral for the time, five days.
So in the overall scheme of things eleven days does seem atypical and unnecessary.