When I read about the public funeral service for Caylee Anthony, the slain 3 year girl whose mother Casey is being held on suspicion for her murder, I cringed.
But fortunately none of the protesters were there turning what should be a somber event, into a circus.
No t-shirts bearing “Your Mommy Did It,” were displayed, no chants of disgust for Casey or Cindy Anthony were heard among the soft singing of “No More Night.”
I’m not a believer of public funerals, of the unknown showing up to mourn someone they never met. It feels oddly irreverent, disrespectful to sit in sacred spaces among family members and friends who actually knew, loved and once lived among the departed.
I don’t know why this bothers me, but these private moments shared with people who are in the middle of raw grief seem almost like a peep show, an uninvited view into the sweet and darkest moments of someone’s life.
I understand why the public wants to pay their respects, to give an outpouring of love, empathy and sorrow, to heal in their own way by sharing tears.
But what I saw from the maddening crowds the last few months, hordes gathering in front of the grandparents’ home protesting, intefering, made me second guess motives of the masses.
And while Caylee’s mom Casey apparently didn’t approve of a public service, if she is found responsible for her daughter’s death, her wishes hold no weight with her parents, with the mourners who chose to share their grief with the world.
On a recent trip to Tampa my step mother asked if I minded if she stopped into a memorial service to drop off a card for a friend’s relative who passed away that week. She wondered, but did not pressure, if I wanted to come in. I declined.
When a loved one is sobbing, when they are trying to just get through the moments, can the hand of a complete stranger help someone through their grief? I believe if their intention is pure — it can.
I attended two funerals after my father’s death, and while the sympathies and love from everyone who attended were undoubtedly sincere, my grief felt private, secluded, not for display.
I learned that how we move through mourning can’t be shaped by the expectations of others, it is as individual as the person who died.
As I read the Orlando Sentinel’s article on the Anthony service, the reporter shared my concern that the service would become a spectacle. Yet instead of protests, she heard soft cries, saw tissues piled in the pews. Instead of stalkers or media hounds, she saw mothers who drove hours to attend the service because they had lost a child and wanted to share their grief with the grandparents, Cindy and George Anthony.
My skepticism for open funerals has made me question my own motives, made me re-evaluate my view of humanity. For how human’s misbehave when a gladiator show like the Anthony tragedy is made available for public consumption, is often a reminder of our fatal flaw.
We are spectators. We are relieved it isn’t us. We are equally entertained as we are saddened. We are titillated by tragedy, voyeurs into victim’s lives.
I want to believe in the inherent good of people, but for months Orlando watched protesters outside the grandparent’s home throwing hate and venom on two people who not only lost their grandchild but their child. The resulting stress led George Anthony to become suicidal, an event that had he succeeded would have led to more despair.
People often default to being extraordinary in extraordinary times, yet I’m more impressed when they’re decent during the mundane moments, times when the Anthony grandparents walked out their front door, when they craved some peace on the way to the grocery store but were met with angry mobs.
I want all of us, the angry ones during this tragedy, people with children who can’t help but want to grab Casey by the neck, to recognize that while the outrage is more than justified, adding to the Anthony’s pain, is not.
Yesterday Central Floridians remembered their humanity. We remembered that sitting in the front row of the First United Baptist church was a family that not only grieved for the child in the coffin, but for the child in jail, for the loss of privacy, for nearly losing George, for the public humiliation.
Casey may be proven to be the monster we think she is, someone who never deserved a child, who never had rights to receive the gift of Caylee. Children come all too easily to people who should never have them.
But I can only hope that with the public mourning of this precious girl, that we are reminded that if we are not able to put forth healing and grace into the universe because our outrage is simply too overpowering, then we must at least do no more harm than has already been done.