Saturday, April 27, 2013

Celebrating with Funerals

There was a funeral in the ward today – a man I didn’t actually know.  But Roland was presiding and asked me to be there.  The funeral did not start until 12:00 and yet I had been asked to be there at 11:00.  I still don’t know why.

So while I was there I started reminiscing over some other funerals I have attended during my lifetime. I have attended well over 40 funerals (perhaps more than 50) during my lifetime.  I don’t say that to boast – it’s just always been part of my existence.  As a result, I have always been surprised by the ignorance of others who find themselves in a situation of having to make funeral arrangements and not having a clue as how to go about it.

Death takes place all the time.  It happens all around us – I suppose for some more than others.  And each culture/religion views death differently and there are just as many funeral ceremonies as there are ways of dying.

For some cultures it is considered disrespectful for those attending to wear anything but white.  For others, black is the acceptable mournful color.  For the LDS member/funeral, the tradition is to dress in the same attire worn to Church on Sunday.

When Roland’s uncle (who’s not LDS) passed away, I had packed a black dress – though not a solid black dress.  It was gingham with large faded flowers – something I have worn to Church.  I don’t think his family was happy with what I had chosen to wear as his mother led me into her room and held out a couple of dark skirts and told me I could wear one of hers. 

Never mind that Roland’s mother is quite a bit shorter than I and any skirt that she had may have barely covered my bottom. It was 30 degrees warmer in Arizona than in Utah.  I was already hot in my “casual” summer dress.  I distinctly remember that one of the skirts was made out of wool – I’m allergic to wool.  As hot as I already was, I might as well just wear a trench coat and be just as uncomfortable.  And why would anybody own wool clothing while living in Arizona anyway?  I was the only adult wearing a dress.
For me, going to a funeral means you’re supporting your living friends whose loved one have passed on.  I normally don’t go to funerals if the only one that I know is the one in the casket.
I was once asked to drive my grandmother to a funeral that took place in another county.  I didn’t even know the deceased or any of his family – just my grandmother.  She didn’t really know the deceased all that well but had wanted to support the mother of the one who had passed. But at the funeral, I learned a bit about the deceased.  And after the funeral, I knew the deceased just as well as grandma did.

I have been to a handful of non-LDS funerals, but for the most part, the funerals that I have attended have been LDS conducted – usually in the chapel where we hold meetings on Sunday.  And I like LDS funerals.  For the most part, I think they pay excellent tribute to the one who is deceased.

The funerals I enjoy the most celebrate life.  The speakers consist of friends and/or family (family members are best!) who relate stories about the deceased.

I had the opportunity to speak at my great grandmother’s funeral, my grandmothers, and my dad’s.  I really enjoyed my dads.

The program addressed "farewell services" rather than "funeral services" I talked about dad’s early life up until he married.  Patrick took over celebrating my dad’s life as a father and patriarch.  We played Corey’s voice reciting his poem (found here)  which he later set to music.  And Kayla sang Amy Grant/Gary Chapman’s “Father’s Eyes”. 

I remember attending another funeral for a former neighbor (only about four years older than I) and his four children spoke at his and put their dad on a pedestal and really honored his accomplishments.  It was great!

Besides the funeral itself, there is the Relief Society who will bring casserole dishes, baked potatoes, side dishes, rolls and desserts (so the family and friends of the deceased can eat after returning from the burial) I remember lots of sign up sheets being passed around in my last ward.  Seems there were always three funerals in less than three months.  It became overwhelming at times (I’m sure for the RS presidency especially) I remember doing baked potatoes and salads and one dessert.  Today I took Calico Beans

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