1 EAGLETON NOTES: A Funeral By Any Other Name

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Friday, 19 October 2018

A Funeral By Any Other Name

Funeral: noun,  a ceremony or service held shortly after a person's death, usually including the person's burial or cremation.

I've had an aversion to the term 'funeral' for a very long time. My son, Andrew, insisted that he would not have a funeral to mourn his death. He had made all the arrangements for a 'celebration of his life'. My dear friend Mo (of recent posts) also insisted that no one should mourn her demise but should celebrate the life she had had. I, too, have made such desires known for the inevitable event (long off though I hope it is).

A few days ago I went to a celebration for a life lived. It was quite a long service in terms of physical minutes (well over an hour) but it seemed very short because of the nature of the celebration.

There was so much happiness expressed for a life lived. That is something I have not seen on Lewis.

In fact, therefore, whatever one calls the service the generic term is a funeral and it can be religious or non-religious, a mourning or a celebration as is decided upon.

I was intrigued by the recent celebration I attended which was held in a church and was a religious service. All the celebrants were female: the vicar and the person who conducted the service (who was a friend of the deceased and, I assume, a deacon); and those who delivered the eulogy and the readings (Proverbs - The Hymn to a Good Wife and Roald Dahl's 'Be an Enthusiast'). The SoSo Choir (of which the deceased was a member) were also all-female and performed 'The Rose'. I think the Church Wardens were female as well. As The Dylon said "The times they are a-changin'. ".  I would add "..and about time too."

The service had a very different feel to any other I have attended (although it's by no means the first with a female celebrant).

23 comments:

  1. To my mind, every service remembering someone is a funeral, that's the very definition of one. They can be a celebration though.

    I once attended a mid summer funeral which went for two and a half hours. The church was packed and the humidity was unbearable. I hope nobody goes through that in memory of me!

    Mo's celebration sounds a lovely tribute

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    1. Kylie, your initial sentence is the point I was trying to get across. I think 2 1/2 hours would bee too much by any standards.

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  2. The end of life occasion has changed a great deal in my lifetime. It's become much more meaningful.

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    1. I think your point about it becoming more meaningful is very much the case, Red.

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  3. Yes I feel a celebration of a life is more important then wallowing in sadness, although it is hard for those close to the deceased. I recently attended a funeral too (Its what we do at this age sadly). I was touched how much his wife and children were suffering.

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    1. Diane, the point about sadness is that it is for ourselves and not the departed: they are gone whatever one's beliefs.

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  4. I have always liked the saying 'Death is never sad if the gift of life was well used'. The only thing I have stipulated about my own demise, is that I don't want any mumbo-jumbo merchants talking about gods and another life, etc.

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    1. I like that saying too, Cro. As for your stipulation - I'm with you on that one.

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  5. I just wish They could collect the bits in the black bag on, say, a Wednesday, morning. The biggest worry is that I must be the last woman standing and so can 'deal' with Husband and The Dog - not in that order. Gloomy thoughts! Sorry.

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    1. Potty, it is my desire to be cremated so dealing with it can be left to the Undertaker and the scattering can be done at leisure.

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  6. Soon there will be a massive sperm bank for women to pick from and men will be consigned to history like the dodo that men made extinct. When women rule the world there will be no more wars and map reading will be banned.

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    1. A rather unusual comment on the subject of funerals, YP.

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  7. Sympathies for the passing of your friend
    Funerals have a community air about them that punctuates life in a deeper sense than births do. I don't know why that is. Beginnings and endings to begin? Or the direction of the life, below versus above.

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    1. Thank you , Maywyn. Your point about death being more of a community matter than birth is true. I suppose it's because so many more people will have been touched by a life lived than a life yet to be lived.

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  8. I guess everyone's wishes are different. Personally I would rather people remember things about me and perhaps plant a tree in my memory.

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    1. Amy, I agree. We planted a tree in memory of our son. You have reminded me that I haven't been to see it this summer (it was planted in a Glasgow park). I must remedy that.

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  9. Whatever you prefer to call it, I'm glad you felt this funeral to be more of a celebration and less gloomy than some you may have experienced in the past. - My first experiences of funerals were my p. grandmother and my m. grandfather back around 1980 (my other grandparents died earlier and I did not attend their funerals), and those I do remember as very solemn and "all black". I have felt a bit differently about those I've attended in later years. Not sure how much to do with changes in traditions vs growing older myself - I guess both aspects come into it. Dress codes have definitely changed though. Even at my own parents' funerals (2009/2011) I did not wear all black. I also tried in other ways (choice of music etc) not to make it too gloomy. I think we need to be allowed both to feel sad and to celebrate the good memories.

    Here in Sweden I think it's still most common to have an "open" and more formal church service followed by a more informal gathering afterwards (sometimes for just a limited circle of family and friends), where those who wish to share more personal memories can do so. But I think traditions keep getting more and more flexible. For one thing, fewer people belong to a church nowadays. But at the same time, death is probably one of those occasions when it can also be a good thing to have some traditions to cling to...

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    1. Monica, most of my experience in the last 40+ years has been of funerals on Lewis which are very much religious (with a tendency towards hell and damnation and, until relatively recently, relatively little mention of the deceased). However I think this is changing for the younger generations whose parents are being remembered. My grandmother died in 1971 at the age of 94. She had made it very clear previously that I was not to wear a black tie and I didn't.

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    2. Graham, I suspect our experiences in the past often continue to affect how we feel later in life as well. For me, church/religion was never much associated with hell and damnation (but rather the opposite!); however, I did use to have similar gloomy feelings connected with Halloween, as our tradition prescribed visiting family graves in the dark - and more often than not, also awful cold and wet weather. I never understood why as no one seemed to really like it. I also can't recall any sharing of happy memories about the deceased on those occasions. (Something not really easy to do while freezing and struggling to light candles in rain and icy wind.) Nowadays, I have freed myself from that obligation - I much prefer to visit graveyards in the daylight.

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  10. We had two funeral services for Steve, none of them religious. His death was so sudden that he never made any arrangements, but he and I had talked about death, life and what we believe many times before, so I knew he would not have wanted a religious service. We had the first one in Ludwigsburg and the second one in Yorkshire, for his family and friends who could not make it to Germany for the first one. While I did not shed one single tear at the first one, the second one was much more emotional, with his cousin singing and a dear old neighbour (his surrogate grandma) reading a poem. The gathering afterwards was a good occasion for all of us to talk about Steve, and there was laughter, too. I still can not believe this happened almost 9 years ago.

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    1. Meike, I've never experienced a personal sudden death apart from my maternal grandmother's and as she was 93 it was not that unexpected even though she was in excellent health (she had just been doing the housework before she died of a heart attack). I'm not sure how I'd react. I think there are triggers for tears. I'm a very emotional person and tears come easily (and not necessarily wanted) but I have to say that the recent funerals I've been involved with have elicited few tears and lots of admiration.

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  11. I have very mixed feelings about the “celebrations”, not least because they don’t leave space for the very real pain some may be feeling. Grieving at a celebration feels like breaking the rules, somehow. But maybe I’m in a minority...

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    1. Frances, I know what you mean about pain but I have a different take on pain and grieving. I understand that some people may grieve because they feel that the person who has died has gone to a worse place (as in the Lewis Presbyterian view) or because they feel the pain of loss. I don't believe in the former and I refuse to feel grief for my own loss. I would rather feel happy for the good times I have enjoyed with the deceased.

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