Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Funerals

Over at Going Gently, John raised the subject of funerals. The comments were so long and varied that I decided to do a post about funerals.

I find it hard to understand why funerals seem to be thought of as either sad or a "celebration of life". I think every funeral I have ever attended was both a celebration of the deceased and sad for the people attending. Just the fact we remember a person implies a celebration of them (unless I suppose we really didn't like them and then it probably becomes a celebration of them being gone).

 Smart, subdued clothing is what I choose to wear to a funeral. It just seems respectful. If there was a request for colour/ flowers/ summer dresses/Hawaiian shirts I would honour it. One way to support the remaining family is to honour their wishes.

Funerals are for the people who are left behind so when friends or acquaintances of mine say they don't want a funeral I get annoyed that they want to deny me the opportunity to follow a ritual I know and value, a way of feeling that I have said Goodbye properly.

Funerals might be for those left behind but when the wishes of the dead person are flouted quite intentionally it makes me throw up in my mouth just a bit. I know of two people who expressed wishes to be buried in a particular spot and were buried in other locations.

After my own death, I have instructed my children not to spend any more than necessary on things like cars and caskets. If they want to spend money remembering me they can spend it on a good meal or nice flowers or building toilets in refugee camps. I like the idea of burial. I like the idea of having a gravestone somewhere to mark my life but at $14K to $20K for a Sydney grave site, well cremation is a much more practical alternative and I'm good with that.

A cardboard coffin sounds reasonable to me but please no tacky decorations on it, no writing on it, no generic pictures of sandy beaches. A wicker basket or a shroud are also acceptable alternatives.

I would like a Christian service with traditional hymns but if I live an average life span, I'm afraid there may be no traditional hymns left. The venue for my funeral might need to be decided by my family. My own church is one choice but sometimes the chapel at the cemetery or the funeral parlour works well.

As I reflect on what I have written here I realise my non-negotiables: there must be opportunity for people to pay their respects, it should be a Christian service with some singing and I would like some flowers somewhere. My bodily disposal should be done as sustainably as possible and nobody should feel obliged to spend money they don't have. If the non-negotiable flowers have to be stolen from around the neighbourhood then the thief should try not to get caught. The finer points are not my business and will most likely depend on the circumstances at the time. If everyone feels they have closed a chapter and are able to move forward, my funeral will have served it's purpose.





27 comments:

  1. Yes, the outpourings over at John's were quite something. However, two quite different subjects got entangled. What and who are funerals for - and what does/did the living/now dead want in terms of their send off?

    Being a little pushed for time this minute, I'll expand on this fascinating subject on my own blog in the next few days. Pushed for time? Actually, I am. No, not planning my funeral.

    U

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    1. I'll be interested to read your thoughts

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  2. My dad's funeral was interesting because he had it mostly planned so we just followed his wishes. Our church has a columbarium in a courtyard in the center of the church and he had bought a space there of his and my mom's cremains. His one instruction was that we not call the funeral home, but call the crematorium directly and have them pick up his body because there was "no sense paying someone 400 bucks to make the same call you can make." All hymns were his favorites along with a splash of Chopin (another favorite) After the service in the sanctuary we walked to the crematorium to in-vase (?) his remains to the tune of "Ragtime Cowboy Joe." (a song he played and sang for every kid who ever came to their house for as long as I can remember, and all of my cousins sang along as my son played it) His funeral was a reflection of his life, which was upbeat and continually happy.
    Also, I wore a blue dress which he loved and asked me to wear. It was worn with no regrets and deep mourning for the loss of a great dad.

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    1. It obviously reflected your Dad's life and style very well and you are proud to look back on it, which I think means it was a good funeral

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  3. I like "the thief should try not to get caught." Love it. Funerals are so overpriced and the funeral homes are all about money.

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    1. I realised that my wish for flowers could be at odds with my wish to keep it affordable (depending on finances) so the way around that is free flowers, right?

      And yes, it's a very expensive business but it can be made cheaper with doing some parts yourself or minimising unnecessary bits

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  4. It is such an individual decision. I am so glad that my father knew he was dying and had the chance to arrange his own funeral. He had a lot of fun doing it ('Goodmorning Rabbi, You don't know me but I want to arrange a funeral.' I am sorry, whose funeral do you need to arrange?' 'Mine'.)
    I am particularly grateful because we would NOT have arranged the funeral he apparently wanted.
    For myself I really want an eco funeral. No embalming, no headstone, minimal expense.

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    1. I can imagine there could be a lot of pleasure in arranging one's own funeral, especially if it's a little bit of a joke on the Rabbi!

      An eco funeral is not a big ask, I think that's perfectly do-able and it suits your approach

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    2. There is a community owned and run funeral parlour in Wollongong where they specialise in things like eco funerals and supporting the bereaved to look after their dead personally (washing, dressing and home vigils)

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  5. Everybody should do some thinking and put a plan in place for their end. I have something in my head but haven't articulated and then given the plan to someone to carry out. I'm sure your post will give many people a reason to think about their end of life.

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    1. Well I have been a parent for twenty three years and am just thinking of making a will. That is a lot of time I could have left a legal mess.
      They say we all should talk about our wishes but not everyone wants to

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  6. I've been thinking a great deal deal about my mother's funeral and who will turn up and if anyone will have any kind words to say about her. She'll be cremated, just as my Dad was, and it will be at our church. As far as I'm concerned people can wear what they like, most people wear dark coloured clothes all the time anyway.

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    1. Being the gracious son you are, i think you will find something positive to say about your mother. IT might not be a lot but I think it will be genuine.
      I sometimes imagine my husbands funeral, I wonder whether he will want to be laid to rest here in Australia or in his home country Malaysia

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  7. I want to be made into a diamond via Lifegem. That's all I know at this moment. :)

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    1. Well that is a very clear and defined wish, I hope it becomes reality.

      Welcome, Snoskred

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  8. A thoughtful post. Personally, I dislike the modern trend towards razzmatazz funerals like circus parades. To me a funeral is a sad event that should be approached with sobriety, dignity and humility. You are not making a point, you are saying goodbye. That's all.

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    1. I tend to agree with you. I do think there is a place for some laughter at a funeral, though

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    2. Yes. When the eulogy includes something tender about the deceased - perhaps recalling a funny moment or an idiosyncrasy.

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  9. I have personally attended to the cremation of many dear ones including my wife and both parents. I have experienced all kinds of emotions but, have learnt to accept death also as a part of life. My children will donate my body after my death for medical research. After they are done with the research, the medical college / hospital will arrange for cremation and hand over the ashes to my son who will immerse them in our local river.

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    1. Ramana,
      when you say you personally attended to t hose cremations, is any part of the process outsourced to a business?
      I think in Australia there are regulatory requirements most people need help with so we use funeral services even if we would happily take care of our own

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  10. Oh, I love it! Don't spend money on flowers.....just don't get caught stealing them! Hahaha. A very thoughtful post and has me wondering if I should request at least something so that my children will have someway of remembering. Previously, I have said nothing, nothing. Made me think.

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    1. Every one grieves differently and your children might not feel the need of a traditional funeral but I have been to many funerals and it is part of my cultural expectation. I am terrible at tradition and have made very few family traditions for my kids but I can't shake funerals.

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  11. Well, as you know my mum died recently, and she told us many times that she wanted a simple cremation with no service, no fuss and bother, no big expense. All the family were happy to follow her wishes and do exactly that. It was a very modest occasion but one that still allowed us to show our emotions and reflect on her passing. Even that simplicity wasn't cheap though - it was still almost £3000!

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    1. Simplicity is a good thing in my book, so long as there is some kind of formal remembrance.
      Just a couple of years ago a man in my church died with nobody to pay for the funeral. The funeral directors did it at cost which came to $4000. I would have allowed the state to bury him but a woman in the congregation insisted on paying.

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  12. The key point I gathered from your post was that the service should be dignified. And I couldn't agree more.

    I don't care if my family has one for me but I keep remembering how glad I was that we did have a small burial service for my father's ashes. It gave our extended family a chance to see each other at a less unhappy time than during his final illness. I keep wondering if by telling my family "no service for me" I am depriving them of the support of getting together, because they do not EVER get together unless I am pushing for it! One last push from mom, eh? :)

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    1. There are several family members I only see at funerals!
      One last push from Mom sounds very fitting, it's what we do for their whole lives, why stop just because we have gone to the great kitchen in the sky? (moms love kitchens, dont they?)

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    2. The kitchen is often the center of a household and so it is in our house also :)

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