Funerals play an important role. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things that anyone will ever experience. Unexpected or the end of a prolonged illness, death leaves a void that is seldom filled and leaves us ‘different’.
Funerals give friends and relatives the opportunity to express the love and respect felt for the person who has passed and to show support for those left without them. Whether it’s solemn like a traditional memorial service or joyous as the dancing and music of a New Orleans jazz parade, funerals help begin the healing process.
Years ago, a friend was killed in a senseless and preventable car accident. She left behind a loving family and a business. At the funeral home, with hundreds of others, we stood for hours in a line that snaked from the church to the parking lot. People shed tears, shared stories and agreed that she was too young to die and her death a tragedy for her 5 and 8 year old children. While walking back to our car, I said to Jeff “I don’t ever want that. For my last hurrah on this earth, I want a theme party where everyone dresses in costumes.” He asked, “Like the Wizard of Oz?” I leaned over to kiss him but stopped short when he started singing, “Ding dong the witch is dead…” He was so close to being perfect.
Funerals have been a means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings for thousands of years. Providing an emotional outlet for all involved. This outlet comes in many forms – tears, stories and if fortunate, laughter.
My Dad died suddenly. Taken so quickly, none of us had time to prepare. He, however, was prepared, leaving a list of dos and don’ts. His requests included a ‘cheap’ casket, no viewing and a celebration with red wine, cheese, and crackers. He ended his list with, “do this, or I will haunt you.” Mom went along with the wine, cheese, and crackers but stopped short of his other wishes. As people spoke quietly with Mom and other family members, Pete, Dad’s friend of 60 years, came running in waving a Mass card in his hand. He handed it to Mom apologizing profusely for being late. He was paying his respects at an open casket in an adjoining room when he realized it wasn’t my Dad! Mom laughed as did everyone around her and she thanked Pete for providing some levity during such a tough time.
Life is for the living. After the loss of a loved one, life is different. At a Jewish funeral, a Kriah is performed. It’s the partial tearing of a cloth or ribbon symbolizing, though still whole, life is ‘different’ and continues. When something tragic happens or a loss is felt, our friend Stan says to his wife Adele, “Book it Dano” meaning, book a cruise and let’s live life while we can. Good advice Stan.