In the past few years, I have been to five funerals. In the grand scheme of things, I guess that's not a lot for a 44 year old person, but for me, it has felt like a lot. Before the age of 40, I had attended only one service and I don't really remember it--just a general feeling of being uncomfortable. Now that I'm older and death isn't such a foreign concept, I realize that many funerals are going to be in my future. My parents are in their 80's, I've got friends, siblings, aunts and uncles, in-laws, and children. The thing about life is that if you've loved a lot, you're going to grieve a lot too. I think it's safe to say that most people don't look forward to funerals.
But they are important.
Why? First of all, funerals are not for the dead person. They are for the living. When someone dies, we need to grieve and a funeral service is a good way to get that ball rolling. Grief is a process and everyone does it differently, but the great thing about a funeral service is that you realize you are not alone in your grief and that this person's life meant something to several people. It's comforting to gather and celebrate someone's life whether they are turning 22 or they've just died. Some funeral homes are now offering life celebrations. This concept changes the perception that funerals don't have to be sad, solemn affairs. One place even boasts they put the "fun" in funerals. I don't know about that, but...
At the service I attended yesterday, I felt extremely uncomfortable because the person officiating made it more about himself and his missionary work than about the person who had died. He said if we ever wanted to see this person again, we had better accept Jesus as our savior. Or else. And he was yelling. I left feeling threatened, fearful and more sad than when I walked in. I wasn't really raised with religion, so this was my first exposure to a fire and brimstone type service. And it scared me.
It also reiterated what I want for my own funeral. I want people to gather and talk about my life. I want them to tell funny stories. I want a slideshow. I want music. I want good food. And I want who ever attends to feel as if death isn't a punishment. It is the most natural culmination of our life's journey. What happens to all of us after death is up for them to decide.
So, my question to you is what types of services have you attended? What did you like? What didn't you like?