Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Good Funeral

I don’t go to many funerals these days —my cancer medication makes me excessively tearful and that is not a good look when it doesn’t reflect genuine emotion at a funeral—but yesterday we attended one that gladdened my heart.
Of course the occasion was imbued with the Christian faith of the lady and her contemporaries. The things read and sung were her choice and well chosen. But, in these days of lengthy funeral contributions from all manner of relations and friends and even ordinary attention-seekers, what struck me was that her adult children declined to offer their individual spoken thoughts. 

Rather, they crafted a comprehensive written tribute which was read by the celebrant just as they wrote it. It was lucidly informative and touchingly intimate. The only other contributions, prepared carefully by a family member and her congregation were significantly distinctive and memorable. Her life was adequately and beautifully reflected in this celebratory part of the funeral service.

Then, after something like a committal, the celebrant turned to the family and spoke specifically to their need to deal with the gap left in their lives. They would, he said, be moving through “deep waters”. He urged them to “take it easy” and suggested that grieving may be expressed in love. But he warned that anger might be expected and would be best met with compassion and understanding. He seemed to be urging them to be accepting of their different levels and timing of acceptance of their loss. Caring for each other they could “allow loving to heal” them.

I wish that I could recall all the significant phrases that lit up this short section to the service. But whatever they were, there was communicated a profound awareness of the reality that seems to be so often missing in funeral celebrations: someone has died and a great hole is left in the lives of the bereaved. A good funeral can set the stage in which that huge loss can begin to be explored and dealt with. And the celebrant can then genuinely give an assurance that “One day, you will think and talk about your loved one without pain.” Any funeral celebration should include this dimension.

Thank you, Russell; it was well done.

1 comment:

  1. John Meredith wrote: The funeral to which you refer seems to have been handled well. I had the misfortune to attend a funeral 4 months ago at which family members spoke interminably illustrated by Powerpoint. No one was interested in Great-Uncle Sam who died in 1924, but so it went on for one-and-a-half hours. Some of the speakers were mumblers and ramblers.