I just discovered, by accident, another Touchy Subject!
It’s terribly exciting, because a large part of my social idiocy has to do with just Not Knowing what makes people uncomfortable, and learning through being an inadvertent arsehole. By-the-by, I will be hand-painting shirts that say “inadvertent arsehole”. I may even sell them.
At any rate.
Here’s the deal. Someone is dead. You are going to the funeral. Or, you are planning the funeral. Or, you are speaking at the funeral. Or, it’s your funeral (in which case, you probably don’t need to bother reading the next bit because it doesn’t apply to you). People often talk about how funerals are supposed to be a ‘celebration of the life of’, blah-blah-blah. If you’re Christian, that’s completely wrong. The purpose of a Christian funeral is to celebrate the dead person’s !new relationship with God!. If you’re Christian, that’s pretty cool. If you’re Christian, you get to sing all these great hymns about how awesome it will be when you die and you get to hang out with Jesus, his Father, and the Big Spook in the Sky.
But most of us, because we have difficulty climbing out of our own selves long enough to wipe our spiritual bums, forget that, and we think that the purpose of funerals is to hang out and be sad together. And sure, there’s nothing WRONG with that. Fellowship and misery loves company and strength in numbers and all that.
It seems to me, though, that if you’re going to celebrate a life, then **CELEBRATE THE LIFE**. Don’t spend all your time talking about what a great person so-and-so WAS, trying to choke back tears. Talk about what a great person so-and-so IS. Because so-and-so is still alive in you, and in everyone who knew him/her.
I know that we need to mourn. I know we need to let go, and to adjust to living without that person by our sides and in our lives. Mourning is cathartic (‘catharsis’ is laxative for the soul) and if you don’t do it, you end up getting stuck on “this is the receipt from the time we went to McFlippin’s together and she ordered a cheeseburger and I ordered a milkshake but they messed up the order and she ended up getting a fishburger and I don’t know why I saved it, but I certainly can’t recycle it” and then they’ll feature you on a prime-time programme about people who poop in plastic bags and fill up a room with poop bags until their whole house has to be condemned and JUST LET GO, ALREADY! Your loved one doesn’t want you pooping in plastic bags. Unless you have a colostomy. Which my friends Smarty Pants and the Dancing Midget say is the best thing ever for long road trips.
I’m getting diverted here from my point.
My point is that there are two styles of non-religious funeral: the kind where you pay lip service to “celebrating a life” and the kind where you DO celebrate a life. After the period where you chauffeur your loved one’s soul to wherever it’s going (or not going, as you choose to believe), you either hang out together with long faces and focus on the fact that you are all miserable; or you start to tell stories, and make new memories with the other people who are important to you and to your loved one.
This is probably the main reason why I won’t ever find steady work as a funeral director.
Because if you want a church service, I’m going to pick all of the passages that talk about how awesome it is that the dead person doesn’t have to deal with all this crap anymore, but gets to dwell with his/her Father. I won’t choose the 23rd stupid Psalm. I will pick two of the eight hymns that are NOT written in a minor key, and I will make the organist play them at the proper speed. And no slowing up, back three rows. I’m looking at you. Alleluia. ALLELUIA.
And if you don’t want a church service, you’d better bet that people will be laughing. Some of them might even wet their pants. I’ll hand out adult diapers at the door.
I believe that if you’re going to celebrate a life, then you celebrate a life.
Also, think of it this way: if you were God, if you have to sift through billions of prayers sent in fear, in worry, in distress, in sorrow, and in grief, wouldn’t you kind of be partial to the ones offered up in joy? Never mind that that’s how we’re instructed to pray, because most of us don’t listen to all the advice we’re given about prayer anyway, but just put yourself in God’s …um… well, maybe He wears shoes; I don’t know. I wouldn’t, if I were God. Put yourself in God’s place. Don’t worry that it’s completely blasphemous for now; I’ve distracted the Pope with a wine cork on a string. Which would you rather see? A bunch of folks groaning and kvetching and crying, or would you rather see a bunch of people sinning for their dead gay son? (Name the reference THERE; I DARE you.)
Probably I could have put that better, but you get the point.