This week as I was driving to a client’s I was passed on the other side of the highway by a funeral procession. I’m always touched when I see such a large outpouring of presence for a family like was evident with this procession. It got me thinking about funerals and death and what comes next a bit more than I usually do.
To be honest, I’m not really a fan of funerals. I really don’t like them: I don’t like the somber room, I don’t like seeing the dead person, I don’t like waiting in line to say the same thing the last however many people said to the mourning family, I don’t like pretending to be happy to be with distant relatives or people I don’t know or like. Yes, I’ve lost close family members before and have done the funeral thing, but I still debate if I want one or not. Of course, this does come from someone on this side of the grave, not the other.
But seeing the procession this past week reminded me that for maybe ever we’ve been doing something when someone dies. Whether it was mummification, a funeral pyre, being sent down the river, or the current forms of burial and funerals that we do now, we’ve been doing something for the dead as far back as I know. I get that it’s a way to support the family of the dead, a way to honor the dead, and can be a way of sending them off to what’s next. But while I didn’t live back in the days of mummification or funeral pyres, I don’t feel like those people would have appreciated our current traditions or found them as meaningful as their traditions were.
Yes, there is a purpose to our current funeral practices. But for too many situations I find them to be lacking in meaning. Too often people show up because it’s the “right” thing to do according to society. They’re not there because of love, they’re there because society dictates it. That’s not a good motivating reason for me. I can support a graveside service (or a similar ash-scattering ceremony), it’s got more meaning in my opinion, and can be a less overwhelming responsibility to the family, while giving the community connected to the person an opportunity to show up in a more visible way and have time to grieve and say goodbye as well.
But so often the grieving process isn’t a public one (or isn’t one you want to do in public), so rather than forcing it at a funeral home, why not do something else to honor or remember the person who has passed on? I’d much rather see that person respected by helping the family deal with the affairs, or donating time or money to a cause the person cared about, or finding a way to continue their legacy, rather than milling about a funeral home.
The bottom line is that just about every death is a sad one, and that person’s life should be honored and remembered. I think there’s a better way to do that than at a funeral home though.