Then, death was real, and people were commonly exposed to it. The death of a child was a tragedy but not an uncommon one. Adults aged and died in the presence of their families.
The homes were large to house multiple births and generations. These were households in which, just as babies were being birthed, grandparents were aging upstairs with chicken soup and doctors' home visits until, alas, they died and were taken downstairs to the same room the babies were christened in to get what was called then "laid out."...The room in which grandparents were waked and new babies were baptized and love was proffered and contracted--the parlor.
Half a century, two world wars, and the New Deal later, homes got smaller and garages got bigger as we moved these big events out of the house. The emphasis shifted from stability to mobility. The architecture of the family and the homes they lived in changed forever by invention and intervention and by the niggling sense that such things didn't belong in the house. ...
Elders grew aged and sickly not upstairs in their own beds, but in a series of institutional venues: rest homes, nursing homes hospital wards, sanitoria...And having lived their lives and died their deaths outside the home, they were taken to be laid out, not in the family parlor but to the funeral parlor, where the building was outfitted to look like the family parlors gone forever, busy with overstuffed furniture, knickknacks, draperies, and the dead.
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