The Purpose of a Funeral
Well, this post might not be very fun or uplifting. I'm thinking about funerals today. So, for some fun, go here. Back? OK, well, maybe that's more stupid than fun.
Anyway, I'm wondering today about funerals. My great Uncle Junior (Alvin Newt Williams, Jr.) died the night before last. I don't remember much about him. The last time I saw him might have been my grandmother's funeral when I was in high school. Maybe later than that; I'm not sure. He was my mother's mother's brother. What saddens me most about his death is that my grandmother's family -- brothers and sisters -- are dying. Only two are left. My Aunt Sue, who I remember much more than Junior, died a few months ago.
Doll, who was Junior's wife, and was also the sister-in-law of another of Mom's aunts -- are you keeping up? -- is having Junior crememated. There will be a very SMALL service -- only immediate family. Junior's sister, Aunt Judy, is not included in immediate family. I'm at a loss as to why a sister would not be included in her brother's funeral. Maybe there has been breakdown in Williams' grapevine communication, but this is the info that I have.
So my question tonight is this --> What is the purpose of a funeral? I have, thank you God, very limited experience in this area. I remember most clearly my grandfather's funeral. He died a few months after S and I were married. I was in on the planning of that funeral -- going to the funeral home, casket selection, etc. I came to the conclusion at that time, and I still think this is true, that funerals have a few different purposes:
- That period of time between the death and the funeral is a retreat time. No work, no regular responsibilities -- just time to focus on the work of remembering the one who has died.
- When I was younger, what my family always called "visitation" -- usually the evening before, and the funeral, plus the time afterward when everyone gets together to eat, was a few hours to get together with family members that one only sees at funerals. I remember times with my many great aunts and great uncles, cousins, etc. Just sitting around and talking. We didn't do that much otherwise. When Aunt Sue died, I noticed that I didn't really know anyone at the funeral. They were relatives and friends of Sue, but the ones I remember had already died. (Told you this would be depressing -- sure you don't want to go back and watch the cow get abducted?)
- Funerals serve as the beginning of the time of dealing with the death. Reality comes after the funeral.
- Obviously, funerals serve as a memorial for the one who is gone.
My limited experience. Mom told me, at Sue's funeral, that she (Mom) wanted the casket closed during the visitation and funeral -- that she didn't want all those people looking at her. I told her that at that point, she wouldn't care who was looking at her, and that I got to make those decisions. I was joking, but I do think that funerals are for those who are left behind, not for the person who has died.
An illustration: Last year, we took the kids out of school for two days (something we swore we would never do) and took them to Disney World (not everyone can write about funerals and include Disney World). It was a terrific couple of days. How much fun would the guys have had if they had been constantly worrying about their friends back in school? If heaven is like Disney World, then I don't think our loved ones are spending very much time worrying about us. It would spoil paradise, don't you think? They know God will do the worrying for them. Therefore, I don't think they care a bit about funerals.
Without the funeral, do you have that "line" between when the person was alive, and when he is dead? How does a sister move from thinking of her brother as alive to knowing he is dead, especially when he lived in a different state? It's kind of like a cow being abducted. There one minute, gone the next, with no moment of realizaton.
Bet you didn't think I'd work that cow in, did you?
So if you have a few extra prayers today, send one up for Junior's non-immediate family who is going through grief with no funeral.