Funerals in general, mine in particular

Last week I attended the funeral of a relative. I hadn’t seen this person in 40 years so it wasn’t sad for me. She was elderly and lived a full life on her terms. Her death ended years of severe health issues.

Attending funerals makes me reflect on what I want for me. I’ve concluded that I don’t want one. People don’t want to go. It’s sad and depressing. I’ve been to some upbeat ones but that’s rare. It’s not about the deceased. People attend for the survivors. This made me reflect on some of the more memorable funerals I’ve attended.

My former father-in-law had a three-day event. He was Irish and that’s what they do. By the time the burial was over, everyone was relieved to go back to their lives. There were some memorable moments along the way. His kids wrote his obituary. After it was published they found one he had written a few months before. Fortunately all the highlights of his life were included. I also found out that I don’t have three days’ worth of funeral clothes.

About 20 years ago, I attended a cousin’s funeral. I have 50 cousins so these almost require renting a stadium. We were young. The deceased was younger than I am now. It was an unexpected death as he died during routine surgery. After the standard service, there was a luncheon at a nearby restaurant. The tables sat ten people and I gathered up my favorite folks to cluster at a table. I never laughed so hard in my life as we were all telling stories from our youth. We were schussed a few times and asked to keep the noise level down. After two hours we were asked to leave the restaurant. There have been other cousins who have gone but the synergy wasn’t there. Maybe it was the light bright restaurant or maybe it was because there was a high attendance. That one hit a home run. The odd part was that this cousin wasn’t one of my favorites. That didn’t matter. All my favorites attended on the right side of the ground. Sadly many of these cousins are gone and the rest have health issues that preclude them from attending my funeral so it wouldn’t be as much fun.

Near the end of my working career, the son of a co-worker was killed in an auto accident. It was very tragic. He was young with lots of friends. The funeral was well attended. He was buried in his favorite team’s football sweatshirt and they played Beatles era music. It was very hard not to swing your hips and tap your toes. The location wasn’t large enough for the crowd. I stood jammed in the back and didn’t hear  the eulogy or service. I commend his parents for pulling it together and giving him a sendoff that fit his style. Somehow despite it all, I felt upbeat when I left. It was the music. No one sang Amazing Grace and much as I love that song, it causes instant crying.

When I buried my mother, there was so much to do that it was anticlimactic. There was a lifetime of possessions to be gone through and paperwork up the wazoo. I remember friends and relatives attending but much was a blur. I’m sure the cousins were there as it was pre-health issues for my generation. What I learned is that funerals are about the survivors, not the person who has passed. Perhaps the decision on a funeral should rest with the survivors.

How about you? Do you have a funeral story to tell? Are you getting buried in red cowboy boots?

 

 

56 thoughts on “Funerals in general, mine in particular

  1. I used to joke I wanted a Viking burial 🙂 I don’t know what I would want for real. There are a couple of passages I like from literature that I would like read, but don’t know about the rest. Should probably think about it somewhat…

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  2. You’re so right, Kate…funerals are for the living not the deceased. When mom passed away a few months ago, we all knew she didn’t want an official funeral at the church. Those closest to her (and there were scads of them) wanted an opportunity to console the family, especially my dad and to reflect about her life so we held a celebration of her life in her home. It was a beautiful event where everyone shared stories of her remarkable life and legacy. I still think of it often and smile. A collection of some 300+ photos was assembled and shown repeatedly and while there were some tears, there were more smiles for a life well lived and loved. I’m positive mom would have approved the festivities.

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  3. It’s hard to believe you’d be part of a crowd that is asked to leave a restaurant. 🙂 That’s the kind of funeral I hope to have actually. When I read that journalist Tim Russert’s iPod played prior to his funeral, I thought that was great. But I have a few questionable songs on mine (a couple of Monty Python ones, for example), and I can only imagine how that might go down. Then again, it is my funeral. 🙂 – Marty

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    • Put 10 loud noisy people at a table and that’s what happens. It seems like the fun funerals are for the insiders. Those who know a lot of the other mourners. At least that was my experience. I can’t believe you’d have questionable songs on your iPod!

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  4. I think funerals are an important part of grief for those who are most deeply affected. It provides a rital way to transition to life without. A great way to provide support to a bereaved person. And in my family, like yours, it becomes an impromptu family reunion, which provides the laughter that reminds us that life goes on. One of my friends told me that my moms funeral was the most fun she had ever had at a funeral. I dont love going to a funeral, especially as they seem to be increasing in quantity as I age, but I think they matter.

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    • It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a fun funeral although I agree with you. They can be a happy reunion. Perhaps I’m at a stage where people I would enjoy seeing have too many health issues to attend.

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  5. I’ve been to some doozies! A friend who was killed in a major airline crash that left behind a young wife and two barely school-aged children, and a friend’s daughter (teen) murdered in a headline case. You asked! Yikes! They were the saddest, most emotional funerals I ever attended. My own family opts for small, family only, graveside services. I am relieved by that practice, and expect the same will be for me. Another friend of mine this next weekend is hosting a “celebration of life” at her home, on the year anniversary of her husband’s death. I kind of like that, too. Informal, and a very select invitation list! I recently went to one that did end up being an almost two-day affair, and out of respect we attended, but it was exhausting. And I know it’s not what I want for me! On the other hand, I make that clear to my kids–that I don’t require anything at all–but it is up to them. What do they need? That’s how I try to communicate!

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    • You have been to some doozies! My former father-in-law was a bigger than life person, active in every ding dang organization that exists. He was 80 and it was very well attended. I found it exhausting as did his wife but it’s what they do in that family. I’d rather someone do a good deed (hopefully for an animal) than get gussied up to attend my funeral.

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  6. I’ve only been to a few funerals. A senior partner at the Firm died suddenly of a heart attack at the Kentucky Derby in 1990. No one liked that old codger but I did, as I used to travel a lot and after every trip we’d sit down in his office and chat my first day back, then when I got the pictures. He was a world traveler in his day so enjoyed reliving his experienced. So, I think I was the only one crying at his funeral, not even his widow nor his kids from his first marriage. I held it in until “Amazing Grace” – it’s a beautiful song, but I agree with you, at a funeral it is gut-wrenching. I plan to be cremated and cremains scattered, but I need to deal with all that as I have no family and the only two people I could count on to do this are ten and thirteen years older than me respectively.

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    • I’m from a large extended family so there have been many. I was around 5 for my first one. As a child they seemed like a strange party. The deceased was always ‘laid out’ in the home rather than a funeral place. People stayed around the clock until the funeral the next day. It was quite the ta-doo. I’m sure there are places that would take care of you according to your wishes. My walking friend and her husband has prepaid their cremation. Upon their death, there is a phone number to call and all is taken care of.

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      • My grandmother grew up on a farm and that is how they did their wakes and funerals. She used to talk about it as she came from a farming community and they were friendly with neighbors and she had a fairly big family. I have to make arrangements of some type, even for my medical designate. My boss is my medical designate, but he is often unreachable by cellphone if “in the sticks” on vacation and my two other friends who live near me are both former nuns. I have no idea how they feel about enforcing a DNR order. My next door neighbor/friend Marge was our second designate if my boss wasn’t available but she died in 2017. I need to deal with these things.

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  7. I want to be cremated wearing my Dad’s cardy and the pockets filled with dog biscuits.
    A simple service should anyone want to come, if not, no problems not having one at all, just dispatch me up the chimney. If there is a service, I have just recently thought of everyone having copy of All Things Bright and Beautiful……. not to sing, but to rip up as my eulogy as I hate that hymn with a passion.

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  8. My funeral is paid for – cremation-no service-and my obit wtritten (by me). I hoped to have the ashes of my animals biried with me (there is a family cemetery plot that was purchased by my grandfather in the 1920’s in a cemetery where there is no longer room for new burials.

    The three-day funeral seems long gone, especially in the age of Covid. Both my Dad andmy Uncle Ralph (d. 1957 & 1955 respectively) were Masons so that added a separate, short evening funeral.

    In 1970 a young friend died in a plane crash – in Peru with 50+ other exchange students). The plane flew into a mountain. I still feel that was murder. Who the H doesn’t know that the Andes are there ??

    I enjoyed your comment about not having three days worth of funeral clothes – I don’t think they change you once you”re in the casket (I know what you really meant, but it struck me as funny.)

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  9. Thought provoking post and even more so with the comments. The last ‘funeral’ I went to was a celebration of life for a sister-in-law that was also a family reunion. It was wonderful in that we all had special feelings for this wonderful woman and we got to see family from near and far. No service for me, thank you, but I do want an obituary. To me an obituary is like the epilogue to a book. Closure.

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  10. Cremation for me. I figure I will have used up this old body by the time I die. No formal service. Just immediate family with good music and wine at home. I hate it when the minister that speaks does not even know the deceased. I still have one funeral dress.

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  11. I’ve been to marvelous funerals that turned into reunions. These people were all relatives who lived to a ripe old age. They knew where their spirits were going and didn’t much care about the mortal remains. Those attending the funerals ate a meal together, either in someone’s home or in a restaurant. We had a wonderful time telling favorite stories about the deceased and renewing our ties with the living. I would so much rather go to a good funeral than a wedding.

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  12. No funeral for me……..no obituary…….before I married my husband I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes sprinkled on my Dad’s grave at Arlington Cemetery (someone probably would have been arrested for being the “sprinkler” !!). Hubby wants an in-ground marker with our names on it and interred ashes. I would prefer more simple but it means something to him so that’s what we’ll be doing. I have been to very few funerals. I always feel very awkward – like if you had a coughing fit in a library! Know what I mean?

    Hugs, Pam

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  13. Already been set with my executor and beneficiary. No obituary, no kind of service, no in-ground burial. Cremation and a short list of options about where and how to dispose of my ashes. I’ve seen too much ‘fakeness’ at services and people forced to make small talk with people they hardly know. Not going to do that to others!

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  14. I’d love to be buried in my dressage riding boots. SSNS and I are doing cremation and our ashes will be put in an Eternal Reef Ball. The fishies and turtles will be able to swim in and out of it. Eternal Reefs. There will be no public funeral or service. SSNS and I will be accompanied by the ashes of our three kitties, Holly, Spanky and the Z Cat, which we have been moving from house to house to house…. !

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  15. we only had a physical dispute of two half-sisters… cemetery administration forced all of us to leave because of this two women and barred us from the cemetery… if that means , I will live forever now I’m fine with that….. hat you said about the survivors and the person who passed, maked me pondering… yes, you are right.

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  16. I am going for a completely natural burial…in a burlap or other natural fibre sack, sans embalming…in a special gravesite that looks more like a meadow than a cemetery. As for a “funeral”, I will leave enough money and the decision up to my kids to decide how to send me off, because as you said these things are for the living anyways, not the dead.

    Deb

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  17. As someone who hates to be the center of attention, alive or dead, I’m with you on no funeral. Kate. If I hadn’t seen someone in ten or twenty years, I definitely wouldn’t want them to feel pressured to attend. Cremate me and sprinkle my remains in the ocean…that’s my final wish.

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    • I’ve gone to a few where I went because I knew the dead person but none of the family. I stopped doing that as the dead person isn’t really there and no one else cares. Can’t decide on where to sprinkle my ashes. I’d love to be sprinkled in Longwood Gardens but it may be illegal. Under a tree or in a garden maybe. Of course, I’m dead so it doesn’t matter, does it?

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  18. I find funerals much less awkward than weddings. I really don’t enjoy weddings at all and find them self-indulgent nonsense at times. I’ve also been invited to a couple on my own, as in without a plus one, which I think is the height of bad manners.

    I don’t have any funeral stories but a friend of mine has a relative who got so drunk that they fell into the grave – yes, actually into the hole – and had to be pulled out. 😱😱😱

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    • Usually the booze doesn’t fall until after the person is in the ground so wow! Weddings are a mixed bag. These days, if it’s not someone meaningful, I don’t go. When I was young (much younger) they were just a party for which I paid with a gift instead of a cover charge.

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