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Thought Provoking... (Not Festive, Not Fun)


I saw this advertisement on a train a couple of weeks ago, and was so insensed by it that I took a photo. Since then I've been meaning to post something in response, but have been too busy.

To be clear, I totally respect the right of people to have whatever form of funeral they choose, but I do feel that the premise of this advert is misguided - it misses the key question of 'who' a funeral is for.  Not, I would deign to argue, the deceased, but rather those who mourn their loss.

The reality is, whatever we believe (or don't), we aren't the ones whose needs are met - or not met - by a funeral.  It is those who remember us who need a framework within which to say 'farewell' and achieve a measure of, if not 'closure', at least 'completion'.

Funerals can be faith-based, can be humanist or can totally non-religious.  Whatever form they take, they name the reality - that so-and-so has died.  Whatever people thinks happens after death, they offer a framework to recall some highlights of the person's life, some things that mattered to them, some things that we don't want to be lost.

Personally, I think it is good to see the coffin, and the move to 'private committal followed by thanksgiving' loses something important (others, increasingly it seems, disagree).  The approach being advertised above could mean that a person dies in hospital and is taken directly to the crematorium where, with absolutely no ceremony, their body is cremated.  What do the family do?  Or the neighbours and friends? I fear that this approach - undoubtedly well intentioned - could lead to regrets later on.  Whilst we have all heard horror stories of terrible funerals, few people seem to regret that there was one.

On Friday just gone, I conducted a funeral.   We arrived at the crematorium just as the daylight faded into night, and the drizzle turned to rain.  It's probably the least popular slot - Friday afternoon, last slot of the day, mid December.  Around fifty to sixty folk were there to say farewell to a woman in her mid-nineties.  A few stories were told, and there was laugther amidst the tears.  Words of comfort and hope were spoken, and the reality of death and separation named for what it is. And on the way out, as the recording of Glen Miller's 'In the Mood' filled the air, broad smiles spread across faces the faces of those who made their way into the blackness of the night either to return home or to continue to share memories over tea and cake... A life had not just been acknowldeged, it had been celebrated.  A family had not only grieved, they had been surrounded by the love of neighbours and friends.  A formal farewell was expressed, and unspoken permission given to begin the work of moving forward - not 'on', not 'beyond', forward.

As I said, those who want no fuss, no funeral, that's of course their prerogative.  But if anyone asks my opinion, then I'd say funeral every time.  Yes it costs more to have a funeral (direct cremations are cheaper because the FD has less to do and they take less time) but it is, in my opinion, money well spent.

For the record, one day hopefully far off, my choices are - church service followed by cremation, all prepaid by me.  I wonder what will you choose, and why?

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