I just got back from a visitation. I've never been to a visitation before; I don't think they're part of my subculture of whiteness or something. Maybe they're regional?
The visitation was for the mother of one of our staff members; while our faculty tends to be drawn from afar, our staff folks (except for those who are partnered with faculty or administrators) tend to be local people who grew up in the area. Most are helpful and do their jobs well, and they can help folks from elsewhere figure things out around here. This staff member, though, is exceptional, and though I don't know her well, she's helped me find my way through some faculty duties with great generosity and kindness.
I didn't stay long, and I didn't go look in the casket. It seems like a weird idea to have the only time I see someone be in her casket, you know? And mostly, I wanted to let the staff person feel a bit supported in a difficult time.
I guess it's better to say awkwardly that you're sorry for someone's loss than not to say anything, right?