1 EAGLETON NOTES: Funerals

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Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Funerals

I've just been to an acquaintance's funeral in Canada. The deceased was the sister of one of my oldest and dearest friends. It was a rather impersonal funeral for me because only a minister and a granddaughter spoke. God was the principal subject of the service and I appreciate for many that is the whole purpose of a funeral.

When our older son died he had already specified that the Humanist service was to be a joyful celebration of his life. He organised it all before he died (of cancer) and it was a wonderful celebration of his life. No black was worn. In all honesty I remember very little of the day except that I was fine until the first song (by the Smashing Pumpkins).

Most of the funerals on the Island are impersonal traditional funerals but the last one I attended was another celebration of life (and a Salvation Army service) with the joy of the deceased's life being celebrated. It was an occasion of happy memories.

My maternal grandmother died over 50 years ago (aged 94) and she told me that under no circumstances was I to wear a black tie. I didn't and raised the ire of some of her relatives who suddenly appeared from nowhere to say their last goodbyes.

Funerals are a way of ensuring that those who remain can overcome or live with their loss and grief. They are irrelevant to the deceased personally in that that person has departed this mortal coil. 

I hope that when I go there will still be a few around who will reminisce and say reasonably pleasant things about me (I won't kid myself that they will all be nice things) and have a good catch-up with all the others who know me and who might turn up. 

38 comments:

  1. Sympathy for the passing of your dear friend's sister, and your love ones. In blog land, I will say wonderful things about you.

    Music funerals, I feel, cushion the weight of grief on the heart.

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    1. Thank you, Maywyn. I agree that music can cushion the weight of grief but it can also be a very emotional experience.

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  2. Condolences, Graham, on the death of your friend's sister and I'm sure your attendance was appreciated by those left behind to grieve her passing. I can recall wearing a bright red sweater for my late mother's service which was held between the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The church was decorated in Nativities and poinsettias which made a somber occasion much less sad.

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    1. Thank you, Beatrice. That can be a difficult time for a funeral but it obviously made it easier for you.

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  3. Ive been to quite a lot of funerals, a result of being part of aging congregations. Most are reasonably personal. These impersonal services you mention are far from what I know.
    The time I officiated, I found it difficult to know what to say about a woman I'd never met so clung to the minimal comments made by family.
    I'm sure your eventual funeral will reflect who you are

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    1. Kylie officiating at a funeral must be very hard. My son had chosen and discussed things with the celebrant.

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  4. the celebration (funeral) patterns have changed greatly in my life time. They have changed for the better as you say to benefit those who are left. I wonder what changes will happen in the next 80 years.

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    1. Red, even the austere funerals on the Island are getting fewer and fewer.

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  5. The last funeral I 'attended' was on Zoom. The funeral itself was in Johannesburg and I believe we were several hundred who attended.

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    1. Adrian, this funeral was on something like Zoom only much more easy to access.

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  6. You went all the way to Canada? Or was it via video?

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    1. It was via video, Rachel. I should have made it clear but most of the funerals I've attended in the last few years have been via video.

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  7. As you know, I have attended more funerals this year than any other year in my life until now.
    Some were live streams, but my Dad's was of course attended in person, and because he was a rather unconventional man, I opted for a blue dress instead of wearing black. The week after next, some of the same people will gather again at the same place, to say our last good-byes to our dear brotherly friend R, who was as much part of my family as my sister. Like you mentioned the music at your son's funeral, for me it is always the music that gets me. At my husband's funeral 13 years ago, his cousin who was in a band with him played one fo the songs they used to perform together. That was very brave of him - I couldn't have done it. So far, I have never spoken at a funeral. I admire those who can do that without completely falling apart.

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    1. Meike, I admire that too. I certainly couldn't have done so. I am far too emotional. I did manage the eulogy for one of my closest friends just before lockdown without breaking down. Amazing because when I read it now the tears well up.

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  8. Condolences for the loss of your acquaintance. Yes, funerals are a way for the living to deal with the loss and remember a person and I do agree with you that it's best when they are personal and not just traditional.

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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    1. Thank you Mersad. It's a long time since I commented on your blog but I still dip in and out and am astonished at your travels.

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  9. Thankfully I have not attended very many funerals but I find that I have not been as
    touched emotionally by those with a religious content as I have by the simple celebrations of life.
    I would hope that people find some good things to say about me when I am gone.

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    1. I'm sure that they will, JayCee. You are fortunate not to have attended many funerals. I seem to have far too many friends and acquaintances popping off this mortal coil.

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  10. I am so very sorry for your loss, Graham. She must have been very dear for you to have travelled all that way. Xx

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    1. Jules, I'm sorry to have misled you (and others) in that I attended by video link and not in person.

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  11. I am assuming that you attended this funeral virtually, Graham, or did you come all the way over here? When the time comes my wife and I will be buried in the green section of the cemetery under a carpet of wildflowers. There will be no service and certainly no conversation with a deity of any ilk. A week or two later a "celebration of life" (that seems to be the term in vogue) will be held when all who remain can get together and chat about a life well lived and what a jolly good fellow I was. Well, that's what I think they'll say. Surely no one will be crass enough to tell the truth!

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  12. Video links are great things Adrian. I've been to more funerals on my computer in the last couple of years than I have in 'real' life.

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  13. David, I did attend by video link and not personally. I loved your comment and had a good chuckle. That's pretty much my view too except that I will be cremated.

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  14. Glad to hear you were able to be there via video link! I was astonished to think you had hopped a jet to go all that way! Sorry for the loss of someone dear to you. The older we get the more we are alone. I'm not at all pro funerals of any kind, but vote for cremation and the scattering of ashes.

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  15. I don't want a funeral. I would rather my children and grandchildren gather to tell funny stories about me and laugh together.

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    1. Ellen, I'm right with you there. It would be an exceptionally small gathering so I'd include friends.

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  16. Sorry for your loss Graham. I've told my children that when I go I don't want any sadness, I'd like everyone to say funny things about me or experiences they had with me. They do funerals by video link here too, I guess it's kind of a nice way for those who live in different places far away to be part of it.

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    1. Thank you, Amy. Yes, I've 'attended' funerals during lockdown that I'd probably not have been able to attend in person even without lockdown.

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  17. I intend to be cremated. I asked for my ashes to be dumped into a hole in the ground and a lilac to be planted atop of them. My children were horrified. "It would be nice to have a grave to visit," my son said. The tree will mark the spot, and I like the idea that they will remember me in the spring when the scent is all around. As far as funerals, I don't intend to have one of those either. I hope that everyone breaks bread together and has a wonderful visit with each other, having been reminded that life is not to be taken for granted.

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    1. Debby, when our elder son died his ashes were scattered at a tree planted for him. We can still visit the tree which is now very large with his name adjacent. It's in a public park with other .names
      d' trees around.

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  18. The worst funeral I ever attended was for my MIL. She was hardly mentioned in the service as it was all about trying to convince us all to become dedicated Christians. Not the right place or time! A funeral is so much more meaningful if it is to remember the one who has passed.

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    1. Margaret, that was very much the Free Church of Scotland format when I came to Lewis.

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  19. Funerals are like weddings, and tend to bring out the best and worst in people because of the high emotional pressure. My father's ghastly second wife and some other people completely ruined my father's funeral for me. I refused to speak, because I know how I felt about my dad and I didn't feel the need to parade it for those arsewipes who didn't really know him, anyway. It was like having a bunch of strangers come into your house and eat your food out of your fridge and put their dirty shoes on your sofa, having his funeral run by cretins. For me, cremation is just fine. No fuss.

    I am sorry for your loss, GB - my heart is with you.

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    1. Well, Marcheline, you never mince your words, that's for sure.

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  20. A rather sad post and subject but that is all part of growing old. When we were children we went to birthday parties, as we entered adult life we went to engagement parties and weddings, then it was Christenings now sadly it is funerals. Most that I have been to lately are celebrations of life with requests to wear colorful clothes, usually colours that the deceased liked.

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    1. Diane, our approach to death has certainly altered a huge amount in the last 25 years.

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  21. I'm glad you could attend your friend's sister's funeral in the thoroughly modern way even if the service didn't follow the trend for life celebrations. I much prefer the latter and thankfully it's been years since I attended a "God bothering" funeral. I think it pays to think about our own farewell and it's kind to let the main players know your wishes in advance. Both my parents did that and I will be eternally grateful. I'm glad you have a tree you can visit to say Hi to Andrew. For some reason I think a "place" is important, mine will be amongst trees, near the creek on the farm.

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    1. Pauline, I can look at the photos and imagine where you would like to be with memories of 'the girls' jumping into the pool. I haven't decided where I'd like to be. I must give it some thought....

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