Reflections on a funeral

I attended a funeral for a neighbor today. I found the experience quite saddening; but not for the ‘normal’ reasons. My neighbor was old – she was 87, and had suffered from dementia for about the last five years – her death was not unexpected, nor was it’s suddenness a cruelty. Her soul has already passed on to a better place. The source of my sadness instead stemmed from my impressions during the service itself – there were less than ten people in attendance, her own son was apparently too drunk to show. The funeral director seemed to me less the director, and more the actor … when my mother died, I was invited on the spot at her funeral to deliver the eulogy, and although not as flowery and polished as what I witnessed today, the words I spoke were real. The same thing happened when my grandfather died – I was asked at the last minute by the preacher to lead a prayer, as well as deliver the eulogy, and I’m fairly sure that I was more convincing than the man who spoke at my neighbor’s funeral today. At first, I wondered whether or not such could really be a reflection of the life of a woman who had lived through all the things my neighbor had lived through; then as time passed, I realized that it was more a reflection of our failings as a society.

We (and here I’m speaking in a generalized fashion regarding Western society, which is what I have experience with) seem to have a professional service for just about everything imaginable. And we need these services, because we are now so busy with our 9-5 jobs with overtime, weekends, and extended commutes that we often find it difficult to set aside time to cook a proper meal from scratch – let alone spend quality time with family. We need professional services to compensate for those things we have no time for – staffed by people who are also burning the candle at both ends, and who in turn also need all sorts of services to take care of some of the most basic aspects of their lives for them. We got too big – we are bloated. Like much of our food, our funerals are processed. This is why my neighbor’s funeral was directed by a man who never knew her – he even referred to the ‘notes’ he took down about her life when one of my other neighbors tried to tell the funeral director what kind of person my neighbor was. His rendition sounded more like a job application. I don’t think it is because of his failings that it was so – I’m sure he’s a fine actor – but rather the situation of having to stand up and deliver a script about someone you’ve never met, to console and soothe the grief of a small crowd of people you do not personally know.

My belief regarding funerals is that they are more for the living than they are the dead. This is why, when I have had the chance to influence events at a funeral, I have always made certain that there is a time included in the service for friends and family to come to the front and share a fond memory of the deceased with the rest of those in attendance. Family and friends need to be involved in the process – this is how it was done before our society grew to the point where people living in the same buildings are complete and perfect strangers to one another, it’s how it should still be done. Instead, you have a group of individuals sitting in a chapel being lectured about something no one can really claim any expertise with by a complete stranger. At some point, we may find ourselves enjoying the convenience of a drive-thru funeral service.

Just as a thought, I would encourage anyone who reads this to actually take some time to think about the funeral you would like to someday have. Someday might be sooner than you realize. Who would you like to have speaking at your funeral? What should that person say? How well does this person know you, your family and your friends? Your funeral, contrary to belief, is not just a chance for those you leave behind to bid you farewell – it is your last chance to speak to them, to bid them farewell, too.

Advertisements

10 responses to “Reflections on a funeral

  1. This is so true. It’s a really hard thing to think about and even plan but you are right- it can happen in an instant (as we know). Love and hugs to you- you are such a special soul.

    Like

    • Thank you very much for your warm thoughts :-) I think death is one of those things that many people consider difficult, despite it being a part of every life. I think this degree of difficulty is all the more reason to think about it, and start talking about it with our loved ones and our communities (however one defines that word for his or her self).

      Like

  2. Woah. I guess it’s the time of year, but so many bloggers I read have posted about death in the past couple of days. So strange to have just posted about it myself, and to see your words: “take some time to think about the funeral you would like to someday have”. WordPress is in some synchronicity warp. :)
    I shuddered as I tried to imagine myself in your seat, listening to that actor. I had a similar feeling at my father’s wake. The morticians were so polished and slick. They made laminated cards with the newspaper obituary and some cheesy poem for each of my brothers and sisters and me. It was part of the “package”. I still cringe just thinking about it.

    Like

  3. Great questions that many of us don’t want to answer. I already have my wishes sort of planned. Some probably think that’s weird, but to put my husband and children through making those tough decisions? No way. They already know that I want to be cremated and my ashes taken to my favorite secluded beach on the Oregon Coast. I’ll probably need a temporary urn depending on the season and/or weather. Just before the high tide begins at twilight, preferably on a full moon, I ‘d like a shallow trench to be drawn in the sand in the shape of my personal rune. My loved ones can take turns tipping my ashes into the trenched symbol while sending me a silent blessing. I’d love my dear friend to play”The Kiss” from Last of the Mohicans a.k.a. “The Gael” (she does an amazing job on her violin! ). Then a short written statement from me to my husband, children, and other family members and close friends. I’d like my loved ones to feel free to say something at this time too. As the tide comes in and my ashes are washed out to sea I’d like “Song to the Siren” be sung by another close friend (This Mortal Coil’s version). Then I want everyone to build a big bonfire and toast marshmallows in my honor. Some might find this to be a bit much because of the cremation and all, but those who know me ‘get it’. Besides, I really do love sitting around a big bonfire toasting marshmallows and talking about good times, and I want this for them as well. ;-) Whatever else they want to add is fine with me. A little positive spontaneity is always a good thing, especially at times like this. Who knows, maybe they’ll order a pizza with some of my favorite toppings…

    P.S. I recently wrote a blog post about our annual trip to the cemetery and how my children and I talk about the circle of life, death and rebirth in all things. It’s that time of year when the veil between the worlds grows thin, drawing us towards thoughts of our lost loved ones and our own mortality.

    Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

    Like

    • “The Gael” is also one of my favorite violin pieces (from one of my favorite movies) – high praise, considering I enjoy classical violin music as much as I do. I have seen videos on YouTube of someone playing that piece at Renaissance Festivals in America … to be able to witness something like that in person would be awesome! Your funerary wishes sound really interesting: intimate, yet informal, yet still solemn – a hard blend to strike, but it sounds like you intend to leave behind a cathartic experience for your family and friends. I really like your idea of having your ashes poured into a rune-shaped trench on a beach. Considering I formally announced my intention to learn what Njord had to teach me by writing my intention in runes in the sand of a North Sea beach, your idea really speaks to me :-) Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this topic!

      Like

      • Thank You!

        Runes in the sand…because they just feel good!

        I think I know which violinist you are talking about – Jenny a.k.a. The Hot Violinist ;-)

        I wrote and priestessed a public ritual last year and asked my dear Sister in Spirit to play it (she’s in a jig band). Physically feeling it reverberate by its close proximity made my heart positively swell. Which movie are you referring to in which “The Gael” was used?

        Like

      • The movie I refer to here is “The Last of the Mohicans,” it came out (if memory serves) in 1993-94, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Madeline Stowe (as well as Russel Means and the unforgettable Wes Studi – actually, I think everyone who starred in the movie gave a moving and powerful performance … part of the reason why I actually enjoyed this movie more than the book from which it sprang; which is rare in my experience).

        “The Hot Violinist” is a cute nickname – but I think it detracts a bit from the fact that she (Jenny) can really play the violin quite well.

        Like

      • “The Last of the Mohicans” is one of my favorite movies too. It has everything I love in a movie including humor, action, love, loss, history, beautiful people, music, and scenery. There’s characters I loved and others I loved to hate, and even a few I changed my mind about. The final scene when Alice unravels gets me every time. I have so many other things I should be doing at the moment, but I think I’ll have to go watch that scene. Cheers to a Wicked Weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

Feel free to add your thoughts ....

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s