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Visitation: Healing For Everyone

Memories Of A Dear Friend!

My friend, Patty Chaffin, died a few years ago after a long battle with cancer. Let me tell you a little bit about Patty. Patty and I met at a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp (RYLA). Patty was this beautiful redhead with a loud voice and even louder laugh. She was vibrant and full of energy. Everyone who met Patty instantly liked her and most of the time she instantly liked them.

We were both counselors and eventually after a couple of years, Patty became the head counselor. She was fabulous and the teenagers loved her. Patty discovered during this time she had cancer. She came back the next year as head counselor with wigs of every color in the rainbow.

At the end of camp, we have what is called RYLA’s Own. This is where the kids in teams or individually do cheers, songs, skits or whatever to describe their experience at camp. It is amazing to see what these kids come up with and most are outright hilarious. Justin, one of our youth who happened to work part-time at a pharmacy, came up to the microphone. I thought, here we go, this will be funny. It wasn’t. Justin spoke from the heart. He told the group that if they didn’t realize it Patty didn’t feel great. As a matter of fact, her health outlook was pretty grim. This sixteen year old boy with tears running down his cheeks thanked Patty for her positive outlook and energetic passion. There was not a dry eye at RYLA.

Visitation: Honoring The True Spirit.

Okay, that was a great story. What is the point and what does this have to do with visitation? Well, Patty eventually died. However, Patty had one of the most magnificent visitations I have ever seen. Patty wanted a party and that is what she had!

Patty not only planned this event before she died for herself, she planned this event to benefit her husband, and teenage daughter and her friends and family. Her visitation was at the Little Rock Hilton Ballroom. Her body was not present but her spirit definitely was. She had a band. She had picture boards, collages, personal items spread around the room in well thought out displays and Mardi Gras decorations. She had hors d0euvres and cocktails. Patty’s visitation reflected who Patty was in life. When you left the visitation, you left with a smile.

Visitation: No Right Way – No Wrong Way.

A visitation is simply a gathering. That is it! The deceased’s body may or may not be present. That is the choice of the family. The family may choose to have the body present and then have cremation afterward or a funeral and burial afterward. The family may choose to not have the body present. A visitation can take place at a funeral home, church, catering facility, private residence, etc. It can be anywhere you would like it to be. You don’t have to go all out like Patty and her family did to reflect the life of a loved one in a visitation.

When my father died, we had his visitation at the funeral home. We played background music that he liked and had his golf clubs displayed and a basketball displayed signed by his beloved Arkansas State University Lady Indians. We had beautiful red roses on his casket, photo collages and pictures spread around, numerous flower arrangements sent by loved ones, and a video slide show. My nephews, who were 5 and 7, kept on sneaking up to Dad’s casket and poking his body out of curiosity. Numerous friends and family came through. I remember thinking, Dad is liking this.

Why The Need For A Visitation?

From personal experience, a visitation can be just as cathartic and healing as a funeral. For the family, the healing comes from the condolences and memories shared by other family and friends. For the visiting family and friends, it is healing as well. It allows them to pay respect to the life of the deceased and to his or her family. It allows everyone to acknowledge that a death has occurred and provides closure.
So whether you and your family choose to rock it out at the local Holiday Inn or have a visitation at a funeral home. You and your local funeral director can custom design a visitation for all budgets and personalities. Whether you are planning this visitation for yourself or for a loved one, you are providing an emotional release and healing for all!

FSNfuneral Homes Guest Author Melanie Heath Posey is a third generation funeral director.  Melanie is a past president of the Arkansas Funeral Directors Association,  has served on many committees of the National Funeral Directors Association, and is  a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner.  Melanie is also very involved in Rotary International.  She lives in Paragould, Arkansas with her husband, Stephen, and two dogs, Emma Belle and Bull.

This funeral planning article was brought to your by Aberdeen SD Funeral Homes.

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4 Responses to “Visitation: Healing For Everyone”

  1. Jamie Adams says:

    I agree with Melanie. Visitation is a way for people to share and honor their loved one. When my mother passed, it was her wish not to have a visitation. My family honored my mother wish. However, I now see that visitation is a way for many family and friends to gain closure. I believe my mother couldn’t bear what she thought a visitation was – a very sad and somber event.

    If I could go back, I would have a visitation for my mother in a grove of trees with everyone laughing and having a good time telling stories about her and celebrating her life.

  2. the seale family says:

    our hearts and prayers are with you

  3. Monex says:

    Many Pitts-burghers call this a viewing rather than family visitation. I will leave it to my family to decide whether their viewing my body one last time will aid closure and whether they will receive visitors at the funeral home but my body will not be on display.

  4. [...] Visitation: A scheduled time when the body is on display where friends and family can view the deceased. [...]

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