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Monday, 12 May 2014 13:20

On Funerals and Other Such Happy Events

I overheard a conversation this weekend about funerals. There was an acquiantance of those involved in the discussion who had recently died and they had been informed there would be 'no funeral'. A number of comments were made about the increased frequency of this particular choice and there was some discussion about whether or not this was appropriate since the funeral occurs after the person is deceased and is therefore not for the sake of the deceased, but for those still living.  If the living relatives and friends want to gather to remember the deceased, should that be the choice of the living or the dead?

I would assume that when a person specifies 'no funeral' in their will, that they are somehow averse to whatever sort of memorial service they have been exposed to - whether that be for religious reasons, or cost reasons - and they don't want to subject their own families to the 'bother' of planning and paying for such an event.  This is reasonable, and I think it's even reasonable for a person who sees no use in a funeral to not designate money in their will or insurance to pay for something they see no value in. 

However, I think ultimately the choice regarding whether or not to gather in memory of a person - however that gathering takes place - should be completely up to those left behind.  I would argue that we all need to 'say Goodbye' in some way or another, and if a funeral is how we need to do it - we need to have a funeral.

When my Dad died, he was cremated and so his body was not embalmed or prepared in any way for burial.  We did not purchase for him a fancy coffin, and so we did not hold a 'wake' for him.  I think it was the following morning (Tuesday) that his closest family planned to meet at the funeral home to discuss details and we also had the opportunity to see his body one final time. There was nothing ceremonious about it - it (I say 'it' because my Dad was no longer there, and his body was simply an empty shell) was laid out on a table, covered with a sheet. 

A couple of my Dad's aunts asked when this 'viewing' would be taking place, and despite the fact that we (the immediate family) had desired a closer gathering, they appeared anyway. 

At the time, I felt somehow violated by this. My Dad's dead body was somehow personal to me, and I didn't want the 'whole world' gawking at it. 

What I didn't consider was their relationship to him. I have a close relationship to a number of my aunts and uncles, and I hope that if I die before they do, that they feel a loss. I didn't consider how these women felt at the loss of their nephew.  After Dad's funeral, I recalled when one of his uncles had passed away, and how there had been a viewing on the night before his funeral. Like my Dad's, this uncle's funeral was attended by hundreds of people, but the viewing was only for family - which wasn't a small group, at around fifty people.  This was a time for the close family to cry together, share stories together and laugh together.  This was how these family members grieved and despite how we felt at the time, we robbed them of this after my Dad's death. 

I will never be one to pull out a camera and photograph a body in a coffin, but I know people who do, and I will never again judge their way of remembering and their way of grieving.  It's not up to me to tell someone else how to process death. Grief is wierd, and it looks different for everyone. 

Personally, I would think it more appropriate for someone who doesn't appreciate funerals to state something like 'do as you wish' to their family and friends instead of forcing them to choose between honouring the deceased wishes and going through the motions of saying a healthy 'Goodbye'. 

That's my rant for the day - what do you think? Do you agree, or disagree?

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