When my uncle had a stroke 5 years ago, he lived for only 6 weeks. During those weeks, the priest came often to visit him and offered him Holy Confession and the Holy Eucharist.
We didn't know he was going to die. We were doing all we could to help him regain his strength and return to us.
However, the day before he passed away, he had a turn for the worse. We, again notified the priest, who came and Confessed him once again, and gave him the Holy Eucharist; and administered Holy Unction. He made it abundantly clear that this was not "last rites". The Holy Unction is to "assist" the individual. He said that if my uncle is meant to recover, his recovery will be aided. If, on the other hand, is not meant to recover, his passing will be easier on him.
At that point, my uncle was still under the impression, as were we all, that he would recover. However, late that night the doctors had his stomach pumped. Since he had just received Holy Communion, I swallowed my pride, and asked the nurse for the stomach contents. She grimaced at me and I told her why.
However, the next day it was evident that he was not doing so well. He had his eyes focused on a corner of the room. No matter if I placed myself in his line of vision, he looked right through me. If I yelled loudly, he grudgingly would pull his gaze away and look at me, only to look back to the corner.
He died later that day, at the first moment that he was left alone in his room. I had stepped out to speak with the nurse when all the bells went off. I ran back in, grabbed his hand and began reading the Psalter through tears.
He had signed a "do not resuscitate" order. With all the bells, and all the commotion, they asked me what to do. I know that my mother, his sister, would be brokenhearted at not being there...My sister having heard the bells jumped in the car to bring my mother. I dialed her cellphone, yelled at my mom to tell him whatever she had to say, and stuck my phone to his ear, while his heart was still pumping.
When he died, everyone left, except me. I continued reading.
The first night we left him there, and he was transported to the funeral home, where a service was conducted the following evening. Since we opted to not have him embalmed, it was a state requirement that the casket remain closed.
That night we had him moved to the church, where my mother and I spent the whole night with him, reading the Psalter. I had one paragraph to go when people started showing up in the morning for the Divine Liturgy and Funeral service.
Just this last Sunday, we had a panachida for him. It is now five years since he passed, yet, it feels like yesterday.
We did not have him embalmed. He returned to God with everything God had given him. There is no use in embalming this body.
However, the State of Michigan, requires the casket remain closed if the body is not embalmed.
Therefore, it was only opened for us, in private, during which time we placed an icon, a cross in his hand, a candle, and other items in the coffin.
It was opened again quickly during the funeral for the paper strip/wreath to placed on his head, and the "proclamation of absolution" to be placed in his hands.