On Funerals

This past Friday, I went to a funeral for my dad’s uncle, my great uncle. Still mulling some thoughts about his recent passing, I want to share some insight on the funeral service and celebration of life.

We are still living after we are dead.

The people who gather for the funeral service have some memory or recollection of this person. The person who’s past still lives on in us as long as we continue to remember them, their stories, how they made us feel, and how much we can imprint onto others how they made us feel. I recently learned that my dad was influenced by his uncle on retiring early and really enjoying what life offers us. I didn’t know that before my dad gave a speech in front of congregation. It made me feel differently about my dad.

I’m reminded of “American Gods”, by Neil Gaiman, of the concept of the forgotten god. They disappear from our society when we no longer give the god some importance in our lives, like ceasing the worship to them. But we make the gods stronger by influencing their reach onto others, spreading their words and worship.

Funeral services are well prepared.

As I sat down on the pew, I noticed the nice gesture of having a tissue box in every row. It’s the little small things that make this ceremony go smoothly. It was raining during the service, so the cemetery groundsman informed us a Hearst will drive the coffin to the grave site, relieving the pallbearers of lifting the coffin in the mud. I must have been grieving too much to recognize this during the past few funerals I’ve gone to.

I accept the faith of others, even as an agnostic.

We had a pastor recite a passage in Psalms. It was pretty lengthy, and it had to do with passing from this life to the next. I clasped my hands in prayer, but I wasn’t praying. I was tolerant of the faith of my family even though I don’t care for it myself. I find too many atheists and agnostics have an issue with having religion being shoved in their faces and will try to make their point by not participating in such events. However, I wanted to be there for my family, and it’s a really hard line to cross to shove my personal beliefs onto others.

Priorities are reset.

For our own fears of death, we take this time to realign our priorities. Perhaps we don’t understand what we’re doing in life, dick around, and pretend we have eternity to do anything. Perhaps there’s something nagging we wanted to do, but we feel it’s too late to do it. Perhaps there’s a goal you want to accomplish, but you keep putting it off. The death echoes our fears and tells us we need to take action with these priorities we’ve left to the waist side and we pick them up. Of course, this newfound energy is ephemeral and we forget all over again only to return to this cycle after the next funeral.

Funerals are this funny time. We’re emotionally distraught. We get overwhelmed by the amount of grieving around us. Then we return to a normal life, supposedly, like it didn’t happen and we get back to work. But we have the choice to figure out what to do with this raw, human emotion.