It comes to us all in time….
As I have reached a certain age, attending funerals are unfortunately not now a rare occurrence. However in the last few months, I have attended two funerals which made me think what I would like to have when it is my time to leave this mortal coil. Up until now I had only participated in Judaic-Christian or non-religious services which had been orchestrated by a relevant rabbi, vicar or appointed member of the family for those not wishing to have any religious service.
To my delight, I have now attended a funeral that was arranged by the British Humanist Association which was simple and utterly beautiful. The funeral was for a baby – a very difficult funeral at the best of times but everyone who attended came away feeling sad but not suicidal and the celebrant left us feeling that life really was a wonderful thing. The Humanist website describes humanists as:
- Thinking for themselves about what is right and wrong, based on reason and respect for others.
- Finding meaning, beauty and joy in the one life we have, without the need for an afterlife.
- Looking to science instead of religion as the best way to discover and understand the world.
- Believing people can use empathy and compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.
The second funeral I attended was in New York where the person who died did not wish to have any religious service or have anything formal whatsoever. We knew we had the room at the cemetery for one hour and that the coffin would be there. The family and friends arrived, the coffin and flowers arrived and we sat there. The departed’s brother stood up and explained that it was up to us how we wished to spend the hour and invited everyone to speak who wished to speak, otherwise we could just sit here and talk amongst ourselves. As it was, people did stand up and speak about love, past events, funny episodes and all those things that link you with the person who has died. Had the funeral taken place later in the day rather than early morning, I felt that we could easily have drunk a glass or two leaning on the coffin and ending up having quite a party. I think she would have rather liked that. As it was when the hour was up, we ambled out to the car park, leaving the coffin in place and taking the flowers. It was unfortunate that the cemetery had the entrance to the crematorium ovens in sight of the car park because a few minutes later, out came the coffin from the room we had been in, oven doors opened up and coffin slide in. Whilst very off-putting, I suppose a practical end to a very informal funeral.
I now feel quite liberated in discussing the sort of funeral I would like and now know that I can actually arranged practically anything I would like. However the important thing to note is to let somebody know your wishes as believe it or not – you’re not going to be there other than in a coffin!