By in Personal

The Ceremony of Death

My thoughts and feelings about the ceremony, or lack thereof, for the final farewell of the flesh and blood body have long been in a state of flux.

As a youngster, I simply accepted the rituals of the final viewing, the funeral service, and the long, slow ride to the cemetery. Afterwards, family and friends gathered somewhere to share memories of the deceased and take those first steps to moving forward after the loss of a loved one.

Through the years I began to view so much of those rituals as trivial, helping little to assuage the feelings of loss in the living and doing nothing whatsoever for the departed.

My father had remarked through the years that when his time of departure came, he truly didn't want a funeral. His reasoning was that he had no wish to be on display for those who barely interacted with him while he was alive. At first I was aghast at his reasoning, then later began to embrace his thinking.

It was only when I reached my fourth decade, and my father his sixth, that I realized that the ceremonies after someone's death are really for the living. Dad and I had a number of conversations on the topic. After some time, he relented and agreed that a private service including only those in the immediate family could be held when his time of passing came.

I remember what a relief it felt to me to carry out his wishes when he died some seven years ago. I wish I could report that my thoughts about this final life/death event were then solidified, but I am yet trying to find the answer that works best for me.

Do you have any thoughts about funerals/services/ceremonies for the recently departed? Do time-honored traditions rest well with you or do you have other thoughts?

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JeanC wrote on March 6, 2015, 1:17 PM

Funerals are very much for the living and that is why when I kick off my wishes are for one heck of a wake to take place. Lots of music, laughter, crying if need be, food, drink and everyone just having a grand time celebrating my life emoticon :grin: Just put my ashes on the mantel with a glass of wine and a slice of pepperoni with extra cheese pizza and I will be content LOL! Then scatter me over Spring Valley Reservoir and all will be good emoticon :grin:

MegL wrote on March 6, 2015, 1:20 PM

I agree that the ceremonies are for the living. After all, we have many life ceremonies, they all surround birth, coming of age, marriage and death. I have even heard of divorce parties! I am not one for these and do not want a funeral but at that point, I will not care! I suppose many years ago, they were designed to help determine if the person was really dead, too many old graves have signs of people waking after burial!

alexdg1 wrote on March 6, 2015, 1:45 PM

All ceremonies, whether people want to admit it or not, are for the living. The departed, if there is such a thing as an eternal soul, are not in a position to be active participants or express their opinions on such things as funerals, right?

Koalemos wrote on March 6, 2015, 2:21 PM

Yes, a funeral is designed to console the living and serves no purpose for the deceased.

wolfgirl569 wrote on March 6, 2015, 3:09 PM

I do think the family and close friends need to say good bye somehow. I have told my kids to hold a party as I will be there dancing and laughing with them

Kasman wrote on March 6, 2015, 3:43 PM

As a traditionalist I believe that the death of a loved one should be noted in a dignified and sombre way. That isn't to say that the deceased shouldn't be remembered with laughter and humour but a period of restrained mourning is, I think, called for.

Ellis wrote on March 6, 2015, 3:55 PM

Funerals are designed to make the living feel sad instead of a celebration of that persons life...

msiduri wrote on March 6, 2015, 7:05 PM

I hope whatever goes on when I'm gone, people create good memories for themselves. Whether that include Guinness and pretzels or tea and cookies (...unlikely), I hope they go home with good memories and a little less sadness. I'd like my ashes scattered in Lake Superior, near where it all began.

FernandoSHA wrote on March 6, 2015, 7:25 PM

Some have his practice of having a family photo with the coffin before them. Our family, though, do not subscribe to the practice as we do not want to keep sad memories.

BarbRad wrote on March 7, 2015, 4:25 AM

I have attended and planned plenty of funerals and memorial services. I agree services are a way for the living to say a final goodbye that gives them some closure. The closer you are to someone, and the more sudden and unexpected the death, the more important this is. For the death of a child it is very important. People need to gather and to mourn together by remembering the person they lost, verbalizing stories, exchanging hugs. After a suicide, people need to try to come to grips with causes, even thought they will never really know. I could tell stories, but not in a comment. We expect to lose two more friends who are in the final stage of cancer within the next couple of months. I hate going to funerals and memorial services because I hate saying goodbye. I prefer closed casket memorial services where only a picture is there.

Both my son and daughter were buried before we had the services for them. My daughter's was just a simple goodbye beside the grave with a handful of people. You don't celebrate suicides. By son's was in the courtyard of the church and over 400 were there, since he was only 14, his death was sudden, and everyone loved me. Only his picture and scrapbooks lovingly made by friends were there, and the whole day was spent with close friends sharing memories and support later on in our home. How and when a person dies will affect whether there is a service and what kind it will be. I think the living should decide, with some input from the one who decides to give it ahead of time.

What ever you want for yourself, make as many of the arrangements as it is practical to do before you go, to spare your loved ones from having to make those decisions not knowing your wishes. Its hard enough on them. I wrote an entire hub on using the services of a mortuary in my Barbad account with details of both my children's services. It might be helpful to anyone having to plan.

AliCanary wrote on March 9, 2015, 8:44 PM

Oh, they're definitely for the living. There's little that can be done for the dead, at least on this mortal plane. I have found comfort in gathering with my loved ones after a loss.

bestwriter wrote on March 9, 2015, 10:54 PM

What I simply do not understand is why people do not praise the living but only the dead - all those eulogies!! emoticon :sad:

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on March 10, 2015, 12:22 AM

Growing up in a close-knit church, it was a quite common thing to attend several visitations and/or funerals a year, and as a musician, I have played and/or sung at probably hundreds of funerals. It seems quite ordinary to me, and I have always been a bit baffled when adults remark that they have never or rarely attended a funeral. Even with that background, when my grandmother, the first person very close to me to die, passed away, it rather surprised me how comforting the visitation ritual was to me. When my parents passed away, it was even more so.

trufflehunter wrote on March 10, 2015, 9:46 PM

I attended a funeral recently, helped paid for most of it and agree wholeheartedly it is really for the living.

paigea wrote on March 17, 2015, 8:16 PM

My mother was firmly against having a funeral. She avoided going to funerals if at all possible. She did focus on other ways of supporting the bereaved and getting to see people while they were living. She gave her body to the university so that was taken care of. We did have a memorial for us living though. My father would not have been able to accept not having one.

LindaCPearson wrote on April 14, 2015, 4:12 PM

My attitudes are changing the older I get. With my parents we (my brother and I) had a small but traditional funeral with no cemetery part. I'm thinking I don't want anything when I go as I don't want to "bother" my daughter with all the fuss and expense. As it is just she and me, I want to make things as easy as possible for her with no drama.

Shellyann36 wrote on April 25, 2015, 6:49 PM

I would rather be cremated and have a gathering for family and friends at a private home. I have always found visiting the funeral home to be too saddening. I really don't like looking at dead people and I do not want anyone looking at me in that state after I am gone.

MarshaMusselman wrote on June 21, 2015, 1:28 AM

Personally I would prefer to be cremated and then the family can do a memorial service rather than a funeral. I have no problem with family and friends meeting together over a last meal.

When my father died and when I've been at other funerals, it was usually during the food portion of the day that humorous events and happenings were remembered, which lightened the day for many there. The first year is always the hardest for the person closest to the diseased regardless of what type of funeral is planned, but I'm sure having family and friends together would help support those left behind.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 2, 2015, 9:16 PM

Even before I had read that far in your article, I was thinking that I have no wish to be on display. I have no desire to be embalmed or buried in a lead-lined casket in a concrete lined tomb. While it's true that funerals are for the living, very few in my entourage would care much for the standard rituals. We had very casual funerals for my in-laws, when their time came. As for my parents, if they ask I would agree to a full funeral. But if they don't I will not go down that road. If it's important to someone else, they can organize it.

VinceSummers wrote on July 24, 2015, 7:13 AM

The funeral is a time for the living, just as you suggest. It is also, however, a time to reflect on our mortality and consider where we are going with our lives. What kind of name are we making for ourselves. A most interesting statement is made in Ecclesiastes. It reads, "A good name is better than good oil, and the day of death is better than the day of birth." The though is: when one dies, he hopefully has a good name with men and with God. A baby as of yet has no name, no reputation. Even Hitler was probably an ordinary baby without distinction.

VinceSummers wrote on July 24, 2015, 7:15 AM

If not somber, certainly dignified. Loud partying is completely inappropriate.

VinceSummers wrote on July 24, 2015, 7:18 AM

Frankly, I agree with cremation, but even then, it is nice to be able to visit a grave site. For quite some time I was looking for the grave of a dear friend, only to find out he was in a small urn on a mantelpiece. That doesn't do it for me.

VinceSummers wrote on July 24, 2015, 7:21 AM

I agree. We don't have eulogies at our Kingdom Hall. But I've heard stories that even organized gang members are praised to the hilt. That's just wrong.

VinceSummers wrote on July 24, 2015, 7:24 AM

People can be adamant about what to do with their bodies. Cremate me and scatter me in Grand Central Station (exaggerating)... What's the difference? You're just ashes! When you're dead, you're dead. It doesn't matter. What does matter is the feelings of the living and the dignity the memorial occasion calls for. It's a memorial, not a party.