This week I finally had that dread phone call - to conduct a baby's funeral. I have now put together a service I am happy with and that I think will serve the needs of the family. In due course (early next week) I'll no doubt reflect on how it went.
What I had not appreciated was the total lack of resources 'out there' and how poor is some of what there is. Even my prefrerred 'Waterbugs and Dragonflies' is not much use to explain to a three year old that his baby brother died; most books assume it is a grandparent who has died (and that we are all true Aryans for that matter). I quite like 'Help Me to Say Goodbye' as a sort of multi-faith, multi-cultural attempt, but again it's still aimed at adult deaths. Both of these books I gave to the parents, who seemed genuinely to appreciate them, along with the list I'd compliled of stuff in the local library and on the web. So, does anyone know of anything for children - especially small children - about child death so I can update my library and lists?
Then the published liturgies! The 'simpler' language isn't much simpler and it seems just to make children and babies into mini-adults. I was even disappointed when I read the ideas in 'Human Rites' (apologies to the authors who have on the whole done a fantastic job with alternative liturgies). I realise this is largely because Christian liturgies assume a greater level of owned faith and Christian knowledge than many of the people who come to us for funerals. The most helpful thing I found (online) was what seemed to be a humanist liturgy from New Zealand!
At least the song the parents have chosen to include seems to me to one that helps express some of what is going on for them; Don't Stop Dancing by Creed (here) is something I'd never heard of until today but found online. If these were people with an owned Christian faith then maybe something like Matt Redmund's Blessed be Your Name or Kendrick's For the Joys and For the Sorrows would have served a similar function. As it is, I am really glad they have something that expresses for them the things they need to say.
I have no problems with not singing hymns/songs and have got quite adept at balancing the content between personal integrity and mourner's desires, it just seems that our published liturgies - even the vague Baptist ones - imagine a world far removed from the one we live and work in.
So, answers on a post card to the usual address!