Sunday, October 5, 2014

Good Funeral Vs. Bad Funeral

In the past few years, I have been to five funerals.  In the grand scheme of things, I guess that's not a lot for a 44 year old person, but for me, it has felt like a lot.  Before the age of 40, I had attended only one service and I don't really remember it--just a general feeling of being uncomfortable. Now that I'm older and death isn't such a foreign concept, I realize that many funerals are going to be in my future.  My parents are in their 80's, I've got friends, siblings, aunts and uncles, in-laws, and children. The thing about life is that if you've loved a lot, you're going to grieve a lot too. I think it's safe to say that most people don't look forward to funerals.  

But they are important.

Why?  First of all, funerals are not for the dead person.  They are for the living.  When someone dies, we need to grieve and a funeral service is a good way to get that ball rolling.  Grief is a process and everyone does it differently, but the great thing about a funeral service is that you realize you are not alone in your grief and that this person's life meant something to several people.  It's comforting to gather and celebrate someone's life whether they are turning 22 or they've just died.  Some funeral homes are now offering life celebrations. This concept changes the perception that funerals don't have to be sad, solemn affairs.  One place even boasts they put the "fun" in funerals.  I don't know about that, but...



At the service I attended yesterday, I felt extremely uncomfortable because the person officiating made it more about himself and his missionary work than about the person who had died.  He said if we ever wanted to see this person again, we had better accept Jesus as our savior.  Or else. And he was yelling. I left feeling threatened, fearful and more sad than when I walked in.  I wasn't really raised with religion, so this was my first exposure to a fire and brimstone type service.  And it scared me.

It also reiterated what I want for my own funeral.  I want people to gather and talk about my life.  I want them to tell funny stories.  I want a slideshow.  I want music.  I want good food.  And I want who ever attends to feel as if death isn't a punishment.  It is the most natural culmination of our life's journey. What happens to all of us after death is up for them to decide.

So, my question to you is what types of services have you attended?  What did you like?  What didn't you like?




8 comments:

  1. As a subcontractor working in the funeral business, I attend more services than most directors that I know. I've found that no one likes the fire and brimstone services. And then there are the services that barely mention the person's name at all. We are gathered together to give glory to God that he allowed this person to live. And then there are the services and gatherings that celebrate how the person touched all our lives. Those are the ones that always seem to be the healthiest, more complete. You leave being grateful to have been a part of it.

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    1. Exactly! Who wants to leave a funeral feeling worse? I want to feel like I honored that person's life.
      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Being raised in a Pentecostal church this was what I assumed all funerals were like. An additional opportunity to be preached at and be guilted into believing that god and Jesus were handing out tickets to heaven or hell and in a flash you could be dead like the dearly departed and it would be too late to be saved. Fortunately it didn't take with me. I don't want a funeral. I want a party where people tell great stories about ME! And I give permission to elaborate to make me sound better even if they totally make it up.

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    1. That's funny! (Not the Pentecostal part.) People can make up stuff about me too. "Pamela was a social butterfly with an excellent sense of style. If she weren't dead, she'd be giving her own eulogy because she loved to speak in front of groups of people!"

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  3. I was always taught that we don't mourn death, but celebrate life. All Jewish funerals I've attended have been memories of the person's life that we have shared. The last funeral and shivah I attended was for my great aunt and when we went back to the house, it ended up a great big laughter fest with all the memories we shared. I hope my funeral and shivah are the same.

    One thing that has also come up recently, and one of the things I love so much about Judaism, is that we don't proselytize. We don't push people to convert or go our way. You won't find somebody yelling at you to follow a certain way at a Jewish funeral. The funeral is about the people there and the deceased.

    I don't want anybody to make anything up about me at my funeral. If there's nothing good to say, don't say anything. I just hope I've done enough good for somebody to say at least one thing.

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    1. There will be tons of nice stuff to say about you, Jill.

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  4. Most of the funerals I've been to have been protestant. Not too much fire and brimstone, but some conveying of the belief in God and Heaven and the opportunity for others to have the hope of that promise from God as well. This doesn't usually bother me if it isn't done in a pushy, judgy, scary way. Of course, I also share this belief, so I can see how someone who doesn't may be uncomfortable even without the fear factor.

    I think the best funerals I have attended have been officiated by someone who actually knew the deceased, and also had others- family, friends- speaking and remembering things about the deceased. It always makes me feel uncomfortable when you know the person doing all the talking knew nothing about the dead person prior to talking to their grieving family.

    I have also attended a couple of Catholic funerals (though only one of them was for anyone I was close to). What struck me as the most different about this particular funeral was how impersonal most of it was. I understand having the ceremony associated with a particular religion, but I really prefer some balance with personal stories.

    While I agree that the funeral is for the benefit of the living, I still want some say in the awesome playlist I've been curating for years for my funeral! :)

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    1. Be sure and get that playlist in writing!

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!