24 May 2013
I cannot imagine beginning a funeral service thus:
"Good day, my name is Catriona, I am am ordained Baptist minister accredited by the BUS and BUGB. This service will include religion and is explicitly Christian so there will be hymns, prayers... Christians believe that..."
I can't imagine it, but it is exactly the way the two Humanist funerals I've attended began. Don't get me wrong, I have no opposition to such 'ceremonies', indeed I think it it vital that 'non-religious' (which is actually not the same as Humanist) options are available to those who desire them. And I am not criticising the way the services were conducted, each was carefully and sensitively delivered, included space for private reflection, a eulogy, some readings and some music. Both of them were meaningful and positive experiences.
So, no religion - hmm. In each funeral the celebrant used these words:
To everything there is a season...
A time to be born and a time to die.
Hmm, so not Ecclesiates 3:1 - 2 then. No, not much.
No scared words - well no, except in poems that spoke of a Master and songs about the Arms of an Angel.
But beyond all of this what, for me, is lacking, is the assurance of hope that faith offers. The promise that whilst death is a mystery and we cannot prove there is life beyond it, yet we trust that it might be so... not might as 'just about maybe' but might as in 'will'. What is missing is the reassurance that we do not return to the world and live out our days - as best we can - ultimately with no eternal meaning or purpose. What is missing is the promise that in the end it'll be alright.
I would not wish to inflict my faith-position on any grieving family, would not want to deny anyone the right to the kind of funeral that for them holds meaning. For me though, however wonderful the eulogy, however beautiful the floral tributes, however moving the music, unless I am given both "strength for today and birhgt hope for tomorrow" I feel short -changed.
I was glad to be at my friends' funerals, glad to learn more about their lives BC, privileged to meet their families and life-long friends. I was pleased to add my 'farewell' to those of others. And I guess, if I am honest, that it has been good to reflect again on what a funeral is trying to achieve.
Today I was at the funeral of another of my younger bc friends - another young woman unfortunate enough to have aggressive triple negative breast cancer, which ran its course in less than two years. It was the second humanist 'ceremony' I've attended in recent weeks, and I am not a fan, for reasons I will post in a separate reflection, but I did appreciate this poem, new to me, which was read out, called The Dash:
by Linda Ellis copyright 1996
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?
Copyright Linda Ellis
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
I do not believe the 'dash' is all we have, but nonetheless, I like the sentiment that we maximise its worth.
RIP Caroline, free from pain, held safe in everlasting love.
... and sometimes I let him/her carry on sleeping. Boom, boom, tish!
As I look back over this week, I know I have been somewhat grumpy in what I've said or how I've said it. I could make excuses, or even identify reasons, but that's not the point, I have been grumpy and some people will have felt the impact of that.
So, to any readers who feel they have been grumped at, I am sorry. I will try harder not to let my grumpiness flow out into public prose or private conversations. And I will also seek to address the sources of grumpiness so that I don't get so grumpy!