The Tragic Death of the Funeral

(From an article I recently wrote for The Federalist)

Like most people, I don’t particularly relish encounters with death. But, welcome or not, I’ve had my fair share. I’ve clasped a woman’s hand as her breathing slowed, became sporadic, and finally ceased.  Through the cramped hallways of an ancient farmhouse, down which no stretcher could be maneuvered, I helped heft the sheet-wrapped body of a family’s matriarch to carry her to the waiting hearse. When a small Oklahoma church mourned a member who’d fallen asleep at the wheel, late at night, early in life, I was there, thinking of the joyless “Joy the World” the band of believers had choked out the day before that December 26th funeral. In each of these situations, the death of the young or the old, there was within me a desire to lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, to shine a ray of life into the gloom of death.

Because of that desire, when I first heard about families opting to have a so-called “Celebration of Life” service for their departed loved ones, instead of a funeral, my interest was piqued. Perhaps here was a viable alternative. The name alone effuses a positive, uplifting appeal that “funeral” or “memorial service” can’t begin to match. Celebrations are good, right? And, life, well, who can possibly have any qualms about that? Perhaps this approach to confronting death, at least the ceremonial part of saying goodbye, would help alleviate some of the pain associated with, and expressed in, a more traditional rite. Maybe it was time to have a funeral for the funeral…

Read the entire article here


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2 thoughts on “The Tragic Death of the Funeral

  1. Steve Dawson on said:

    This gives me a headache, but then I am old. I want the gospel preached an my funeral please!

  2. “….the need to find that death is not the end, that life will have the last word.”
    This is the core Truth that has made the death of my son’s earthly body more bearable. Jesus defeated death.

    Of all people, I was at the helm of making the arrangements for my son’s memorial. I was consumed with grief and shock. Important decisions were made in the jumbled chaotic mind of a mother who was told her beloved son had died by suicide. My husband and family did what they could but ultimately it was my decision. I barely remember what was said by a pastor who did not know my son very well. There was music, there were memories even laughter when cousins and friends told of some of the humor my son brought into their lives. There was love. There was a prayer I had written borne from my agony and was read by one of our daughters. A poem, “Death is Nothing At All” was read because I do believe it is nothing at all but a transition. That we will speak of our son as if he is still living because he IS more alive now than he ever was on this earth. As a grieving mother I HAD TO KNOW THIS. How do those who do not believe do this?

    Because my son was cremated we had his graveside a few months later. It was a private ceremony for just family where the pastor who had baptized my son gave a special sermon that addressed suicide. Salvation does not condemn our manner of death like the world and other pious self-righteous people do. I had to have that special service to soothe my ailing and questioning heart. God would not forbid it.

    Hindsight has given clarity to all the things I wish I would have done differently, but there is one thing that cannot be undone and that is that we had to have a “funeral” at all. In my humanness I would rather have my son with me, but as a Believer I should be happy that he is with Jesus for eternity. Flesh and Spirit are embattled until that Day.

    Thank you for allowing my lengthy comment. I do get such comfort from reading all your posts, Chad.

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