Do you read obituaries? Have you observed that more people opt for no funeral these days? Ever wonder why? I have my theories. One is that fewer people include a traditional faith experience into their lives, so it might seem incongruous to end such a life in a church with prayers and hymns.
Another theory is that people hate attending funerals and don’t want to inflict the same discomfort on their friends.
Or they view their own funeral as being “on stage,” one of the top fears for many, topping the fear of death itself. Although it’s not likely they’ll be asked to speak.
Or maybe deep down, people fear no one will show up. The ultimate rejection.
I’ve heard people say, “Don’t cry when I’m gone.” That’s not healthy, folks! I don’t want my loved ones paralyzed by grief when I die, but tears are a necessary and healing part of the journey. So is laughter. I hope there is plenty of both at my funeral.
“Don’t make a big fuss when I pass, just stick me in the ground and be done with it,” is another line I’ve heard. A statement like that is usually made out of genuine humbleness, but what these folks may be forgetting is that their funeral isn’t for them. It’s for those they leave behind. I found it wonderfully comforting as a grieving daughter to receive the embraces of friends and relatives, to hear my cousins share their memories of my dad, and to hear how much he meant to his friends. I would have felt the loss far more keenly if Dad had declared he didn’t want a funeral.
I think pre-arranging your funeral is similar. Some say, “I won’t care at that point, so do whatever you want.” Again, it’s not for you. Pre-planning spares others from a hundred decisions, some of them costly, at a time when emotions run high and energy and focus are at an all-time low. How much better to not have to purchase a burial plot, choose a casket, name a charity, and all those details because they’re already decided?
I’m beginning to sound like an ad for a funeral home. I promise, no kickbacks were solicited or received in the writing of this post.
I used to think it would be better to return to the pioneer days where the men of the community gathered to build a box and dig a hole. The women brought food and the pastor said a few words. Death wasn’t a billion-dollar business then, and folks didn’t go into debt to give their loved ones a “decent” burial. But I came to appreciate funeral home directors when my father died. I understood better the service they provided and the professionalism with which they delivered it.
Maybe I’m a control freak, but I’ve been planning my own funeral songs since my thirties. As different songs become more meaningful in any given year, I change my playlist accordingly. You might think that’s morbid, but these songs burst with such victory I don’t see how anyone will return home afterward feeling anything other than hope. You see, I firmly believe it’s not so much that life continues after death, but that it finally, truly begins.
More next week, when we celebrate the reason for this glorious hope.