This past weekend, an elderly relative died of cancer. He had made it clear that upon his death there would be no funeral and no visitation. Since the family is not close, it didn’t surprise me, but I was still disappointed. His wife, who had died a couple of years before him, had stipulated the same thing.
The subject of death, of course, is morbid and generally I find people like to avoid thinking or talking about it until circumstances, like illness or sudden tragedy, force it upon them.
But the fact that neither of these people would allow their family to publicly acknowledge their passing, and by extension, the life they lived, seems unnatural. So I’m talking about it.
I think it was a little selfish, a tad controlling from beyond the grave, a snub to the people who loved him. Sound harsh? That’s how I feel about it.
After all, a funeral isn’t going to be enjoyed by the person who died. Imagine it…we’re not going to be at our own funerals! We’re not going to be sitting at the back, thinking how fat and bald everyone’s gotten, how awful the singer was, or how far away we had to park.
We can’t fathom the nothingness of death, so we envision our own ceremony as though we were guests. And who enjoys going to funerals?
Actually, I hope my own funeral will be a time for my family to rejoice, because as a Christian, I believe death is more like a graduation. As Tolkien wrote, “…the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
I’ll finally be with Jesus, and I hope that joyous thought will help my children deal with the grief of being separated for a time. In the meantime, remember. Close ranks, love one another. Live your lives well, remind each other about what’s important.
A funeral is a ritual that allows friends and loved ones to commemorate someone who made an impression on their lives, an impression on the world, for good or for ill. We shouldn’t take it away from them. It’s the period at the end of a sentence–it’s not finished without one.