Thursday, November 01, 2012

Funeral Lite

November 1st is All Saints Day, and the Day of the Dead in Mexico and other Latin American cultures. It is a day to honour and remember those who have gone before us and to give thanks that they are in God's care and keeping.

Today, for the second time in a few weeks I will be presiding at what I'm going to call a Lite Funeral, a bit like the regular service but less fulfilling. One was a graveside service with family only and this one a matter of minutes with a handful of people invited to attend.

In both cases the elderly mother was beloved by family. And in both instances mom asked the family not to "make a fuss."

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but dying is a big deal. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, you are no longer in the presence of your loved ones. In most cases that person will be sorely missed and grief may be lasting. Taking the opportunity to say farewell with dignity and respect and even some humour can be part of the process of healing. For those who do have a religious faith, affirming God's defeat of death in Christ can be reassuring.

In each instance the family wanted to respect  a parent's expressed wishes. My thought is, let your family know what you do want if you would like a funeral. But don't tell your family not to gather for a ceremonial farewell because you think it will be too much for them. In my opinion it is not the loving thing to do.I have written several times about those whose grief seems to linger because there was no opportunity for expression of loss.

I am frustrated by this growing trend even though I would be pleased never to do another funeral. I am often presiding at the services of those I really care for, and I don't like seeing people in pain. But remember that you are worth the effort --it's about you. Also keep in mind that it's not about you at another level. A funeral or memorial is for those who are left behind. Humans need this opportunity. So respect yourself and let others show their respect.



NJK said...

Hi David (and other readers) - couldn't agree more. We are seeing such a change in funeral practice and I don't think it is necessarily better. The almost casual approach to end-of-life ritual is less than satisfying both from a theological and personal view. It often leaves the family confused by unresolved grief. The loss of ritual in our culture is diminishing many rites of passage. I have told my family - you better have a funeral when I die and you all better cry!!!
By the way David, love your blog and reading it is part of my morning ritual. You often stir my thoughts and frequently inspire me. I pass on your ideas,and I admit I sometimes outright steal them! Keep up the great work.

roger said...

An interesting perspective, David, and one to which I had not given much thought.

I have to admit, I am one of those who have felt that it should not be a big deal when I pass, and for people to just carry on. However, it is a somewhat selfish way of looking at it. As you said, making it a big deal can help those who are left behind deal with their loss.

IanD said...

I hadn't realized that this is the way things were leaning these days. Who knew?

Lynnof60 said...

AYMEN to David and NJK! We have had a few instances in our family where the family members have said "no funeral!" "no nothing"! It was like they were walking this earth one day and the next "poof" - like they had never been here. It was unsettling.
As I said at Bible Study yesterday "I believe in celebrating milestones and dying would be considered one of the bigger ones". There will be much singing and, like NJK, I'm banking on a few tears. I hope that the years I have walked this earth will have been meaningful and that I will be missed. Not missed forever but at least for a day or two. I told them yesterday that I had "some" of my music picked out. They asked who would sing it. Really? They had to ask?
Death is sad. Losing a loved one is sad. Celebrating a life lived is not. Celebrate away I say.....

janet.rice said...

NJK - I'll be there, weeping, if you promise to do the same for me! Lynn, you may sing It Is Well With My Soul! David, you may eulogize, but please be modest!

There. That's organized. One more thing off the list.

Excuse me for being flippant. The longer I live, the more I understand the importance of funerals as expressions of love - and a VERY critical step in the grieving process.

Laura said...

And that's why I go to church...well not the only reason but who wouldn't want to surround themselves with the thoughtful, humourous, honest,loving lives of these responders...thanks for the perspective and laugh..good for the soul.

David Mundy said...

Isn't it interesting how much response this subject elicits. I too am glad for the humour in what is a rather sobering topic.

Thanks Nancy,for your comments, given that your years in ministry equal mine. In fact, you could be picky and point out that you have been in ministry longer, by maybe ten minutes, since you were the K to my M amongst those ordained that day.

I would love to hear you sing at your own funeral Lynn, except that would mean you were dead. So forget I said that. You and Janet will need to enlist some technological expertise to make Janet's wish a reality.

Stay healthy y'all!