Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Thoughts on funerals

Funerals - nobody likes the subject but how important it is to recognize that it is a rite of passage, a place for love, remembrance, grief, and joy to be shared. I often read an obituary stating "no funeral is to be held at the request of the deceased." How cruel it seems to deny one's loved ones a chance to mourn, a chance to remember, a chance to say good-bye singly and in the company of family and friends. Anyway, the funeral is not for the deceased but for the beloved congregation from which the deceased has now departed. And although not every person or family decides to have a funeral, there is a strong rumor circulating that everyone does die eventually so a funeral is an option; an option for clearing up one's final life on earth, I suppose. I suppose and I propose for my own demise at a ripe, old and ornery age, the following:

Funeral optional? - No, mandatory and in an Episcopal Church, please
Why mandatory - See below
a. To memorialize and celebrate life as a blessed gift from God
b. To publicly announce my belief in the Trinity and in the Resurrection
c. To have a place for my family to share their love and their grief with each other and friends
Cremation - Yes
Why Cremation - See below
a. To eliminate anyone seeing manicure, makeup application and hairstyle that some sweet person has inflicted upon my body based upon a picture taken in my young and sassy youth - no thank you
b. No one will have to decide what I'm going to wear
c. In order for my cremains to return to the earth - dust to dust
d. Caskets are a waste of money
a. Urn - suitable for reuse by other members of the family at a much later time
b. Flowers - simple arrangements behind altar, candles burning, table set for Holy Eucharist
c. Burial Rite II with HE II, service performed hopefully by a minister that might have known me sometime in life - but if he/she didn't know me - it matters not as long as she/he knows God and can perform the liturgy well
a. Soft organ music playing as congregation gathers would be nice but only IF there is a competent organist available
b. Two joyous Easter hymns - one to open and one to close - celebrating the Resurrection
c. I do NOT want Amazing Grace to be played, sung or even hummed
Words of Remembrance/Homily optional*
a. A family member is absolutely NOT expected to speak about me
b. My own words** may be read by a friend or the priest*
Psalm, Old and New Testament Readings
a. Two readings executed by members of the family or family friends
Psalm 139:1-18, Job 19:23-27a, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9
Gospel read by the Priest
a. John 14:1-7
Celebration of Holy Eucharist
Closing Hymn/Dismissal with Alleluias
A private or public inurnment - family may decide
A festive reception with lots of food

**My own words of remembrance for the funeral will be filed in my personal file cabinet under "Churches" - subtitled Funeral or with my will - please look for them at the "appropriate" time - preferably prior to the funeral:)


  1. What do you mean there's a strong rumour circulating that everyone will die eventually?? Oh well, better get organised. ;-)

    Having organised a couple of funerals and attended more, I agree that everything we, the one-day-to-be-deceased, can do in advance, the easier for the family and friends. I've recently started a DDD (drop down dead) file containing in one place bank details etc., and although I haven't got very far with it yet, it's quite satisfying in a strange sort of way.

    Outlining my funeral service is another thing to do. I have this (probably irrational) fear that no-one will attend, though. A bit like those moments just before a party when you're convinced no-one will turn up and you'll have to eat all the canapés yourself!

    There's a strange difference in the UK with cremations: you have to get a proper casket and the body is cremated with the casket. I have to say I, too, think this is a waste of money, and of the beautiful wood that goes to make the casket.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post and for the beautiful way in which you've been thoughtful to your family in outlining all these arrangements.

    Now let's hope they aren't necessary for a very long time!

  2. This is a very useful framework. Thank you very much. I have attended a few funerals of late and I agree that one could do without testimonials of family members. It is difficult on everyone.

  3. Tess, I knew someone would see the humor in the rumor:) As adults and regrettably some of us as children have been faced with planning and/or attending a funeral and they can be ghastly. They're not to be viewed as fun, I don't believe, but well planned and executed I believe is an essential to honoring the person to whom we say good-bye. And the cremation thing, I'm not sure that the US doesn't have the same issue with a wooden box or enclosure of some kind - that may be a detail I do leave to the family:) Thanks as always for your thoughtful response.

    Barbara, I think I may know of a time when family members didn't feel obligated to stand and bare their soul with stiff upper lip and trembling remarks, with sobbing disintegration at times - then we had the sad series here in the USA of the Kennedy/King assassinations and the brave persons who took on those roles were models to many. Their tributes were powerful, poignant, unbelievably brave in the face of the circumstances but I think the person with love and grief in their heart should not be the one to stand and comfort everyone else in a congregation. It just seems too much to me. Thanks for your comment - always welcome!

  4. With luck and by the grace of God, when this service is celebrated I will have been waiting for you to come home.

  5. Dianna,
    Should I outlive you, you know I won't be able to resist humming just a few bars of "Amazing Grace" at your service. :-) But I'll do it very, very quietly.

  6. CP - don't be so sure!


    Linda - no respect, I knew it, no respect! BTW SEW doesn't want it hummed at his either:)))


  7. i may have to sit next to linda :-)) i've always known i would like her.

    ok...we'll discuss this more at length upon our next visit. how about the slide show? have you thought about that? i personally want a celebration...a party if you will, but only if the attendees are willing to join in the fun with an appropriate amount of tears thrown into the mix.

    cremation - definitely - and possibly a fabulous upbeat rendition of "i'll fly away"...i'll offer more details when i'm not on vacation. xoxoxoox

  8. Lucy - Now I suppose I'll have to appoint ushers to keep the "humming" down!! Yes, you would like Linda - there's a sparkle in that shy grin that betrays the mischief sometimes:)

    Oh, puhhhhlleasseee, no slide show although CP may have the skill down by then, so who knows. Fun and tears are a very good combination so that'll work.

    I'm thinking about the "I'll Fly away" about "Up, up and Away in my Beautiful Balloon" with just a few ashes for distribution - you can vote on that one at the time:)