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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Allow widow her happiness

Catherine Johnston And Rebecca Nappi The Spokesman-Review

Q. The husband of a close friend died a year ago. She “re-met” a high school friend at a 40th reunion this summer and just announced they will be getting married sometime in 2013. My husband and I are both still grieving her husband and now she wants us to be happy for her?

A. Yes, be happy for her.

Your disappointment likely won’t change her mind. And it could distance you from her. As we get older, it becomes more important to hang on to old and dear friends.

Many widows and widowers remarry, and often, the happier the first marriage, the more they wish to remarry, because the “institution” was good to them.

Aging experts expect baby boomer widows and widowers to remarry in greater percentages than their widowed “Greatest Generation” parents did.

One reason: There will likely be more older men around in the next 10 to 20 years. The gap between women’s longevity and men’s is narrowing. Also, so many people were born in the boomer years – 78 million – that there should be plenty of men to go around.

Glibness aside, delaying a second marriage, just so other people can get used to the idea, is an unnecessary waste of time when you’re in your 60s, 70s or beyond.

You need to work through your grief first and then consider welcoming your friend’s fiance into your lives.

Examples abound of this kind of radical graciousness.

William Petit is a Connecticut doctor who lost his wife and two daughters in a horrendous home invasion and murder in 2007. Petit remarried this year, and according to People magazine, his deceased wife’s sister expressed happiness when she first heard of his engagement.

The sister told Petit: “We want you to be happy. I just can’t wait to dance at the wedding.”

Q. I would like my body to be buried, not cremated, but I don’t like the idea of my body being embalmed. Is there any legal requirement stating a body must be embalmed? If not, is there a specific timeline between death and burial?

A. No legal requirement exists for bodies to be embalmed in order to be buried.

“These decisions are totally up to a family,” said Bob Biggins, owner of Magoun-Biggins Funeral Home in Rockland, Mass.

While embalming or preserving a body has existed for centuries in other parts of the world, such as in Egypt, embalming began in the United States during the Civil War.

“Embalming came into practice so we could send bodies (soldiers killed in battle) home to loved ones,” Biggins said.

“Embalming is a very gentle process,” Biggins said. “It is similar to kidney dialysis; it is a cleansing, sanitizing and peaceful process.”

But it’s not everyone’s choice.

Generally, if a deceased’s loved one wants a “direct” burial (no embalming), then the timeline is one to three days after the death. But a body may be refrigerated a bit longer to accommodate a family.

People in some religious or ethnic traditions do not embalm their deceased. Muslim family members or an Imam will cleanse the deceased’s body and bury the body on the day of death. The Jewish tradition also seeks to bury on the day of death and does not embalm; instead, Jews practice tahara – washing and purifying the deceased’s body in preparation for burial.

You can be buried without embalming and even without a casket, just a burial shroud. Some cemeteries allow you to have only a cement vault over the shroud or casket and omit the concrete liner. Some caskets are biodegradable or made from wood without metal parts.

Whatever families want is welcomed by funeral directors, Biggins said.

“People today make funeral choices very personal and reflective of the person’s life.”

Catherine Johnston, a health care professional from Olympia, and Rebecca Nappi, a Spokesman-Review features writer, welcome your questions about what to do in times of illness, dying, death and grief. Contact them through their EndNotes blog at blogs/endnotes.
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