Recently I heard the term: Lying in Repose. I thought it was a redundancy. Doesn't repose mean "lying" already? How does lying in repose differ from lying in state, or lying in honor? What's really going on here?
As an End-of-Life Doula we often guide communities in preparing a deceased loved one to lie in the home for a few hours to a few of days for visitation. We generally use the term: "Lying in honor," referring to the state of the body being lain out for vigil in the home. Family and friends decide whether to have community visitation, or private ceremony. According to the National Home Funeral Alliance, lying in honor in the home is totally legal in all of the United States of America.
A quick online search retrieved the definition of repose: "A state of resting after exertion or strain. Eternal rest." I found this definition interesting because my experience with people in the active dying stage is that dying can take some work and strain prior to the final exhale. Another wiki search revealed, lying in repose is the term used for a deceased person of high social or spiritual importance whose body is prepared to lie for public viewing in a non-government location.
The term: "Lying in state" is reserved for a deceased person lying in a government location such as a state capitol building or the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Lying in state may include military honors. Interestingly, lying in state in the rotunda is not restricted to presidents or government officials. In 1998 a congressional vote allowed two capitol police officers who died in the line of duty to lie in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, but it was called, "lying in honor." In October of 2005 Rosa Parks was the first woman, (third civilian) allowed the distinction of lying in honor in the rotunda. Rev. Billy Graham will become the fourth civilian to also lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
So whether it's lying in repose, in state, or honor, it's simply about paying loving respect to one who has died. It gives opportunity for those left behind to pay tribute, offer ceremony, ritual, spiritual acknowledgment, and also time to process the reality of death. Even if someone you care about is not of high social prominence, a government official, hero, civil rights activist, or spiritual leader, you too may pay tribute to your deceased person by preparing her/him to lie in honor for viewing in a special location. You have the right to prepare an environment for lying in honor by washing, anointing, dressing and arranging for visitation within the comfort of your own home. I believe doing death right with dignity, love and respect is our duty as human beings.
Akhila Murphy. I am a trained Death Doula and After Death care midwife. My passion is encouraging and engaging conversations about dying, death, the dead, and what happens after death. Through real life and death experiences I hope to inspire questions, creative ideas, contemplation and a new outlook on what it means to live a full life and die a good death.