The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Utterly impersonal and awfully long

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

I follow The Hearth of Mopsus blog. I like it very much — the writer’s fastidious prose, his rigorous,  intellectual objectivity on the one hand, his very earnest doubts and self-questioning on the other. He’s written a very good book about holy wells, by the way. Not your bag? Fine by me. Each to his/her own. Much more to the point, I don’t comfortably think that he would like being talked about on this blog, and I’m sorry to do it to him but I’m going to do it anyway. 

In a recent post he describes his father’s funeral. He is a minister himself. 

The worst part was the minister. At least he wasn’t the ‘crem cowboy’ who’d taken my uncle’s funeral, but he was cracking on a bit then and may well not be around himself now. The chap who performed my Dad’s obsequies was a somewhat offhand Ulsterman who preached not on the Bible text that I’d chosen but on The Lord Is My Shepherd which was one of the hymns. The argument was: the Psalm that hymn was based on was written by King David. King David was a great sinner. He found peace and hope in his relationship with the Good Shepherd, and so must we. ‘We must do business with the Good Shepherd’, he said several times, having come up with a line he liked. 

He concludes:

I don’t know, perhaps I do it all wrong – perhaps I should be completely ignoring the deceased and whatever the bereaved might be feeling, and trying to convert people by making them feel bad rather than loved. You may detect a degree of scepticism in my tone. Thank God for Fats Domino or I would have been left thinking I’d prefer a secular funeral. Perhaps I still would.

You can read it all here. Do, please. 

You probably know how he felt. And we reflect that, though funerals need to be done better, because they matter more, than any other ‘life event’ ceremony, they’re not always, whether religious or secular. The occasion doesn’t look after itself, nor do the words, you can’t just arrange your face and rattle them off. That Ulsterman probably thought he did just fine. So, probably, do lots of secular celebrants. But this is a job for extra-ordinary people. 

You may need Fats to cheer you up, too.

 

5 comments on “Utterly impersonal and awfully long

  1. Friday 13th January 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I was trying to be flippant, of course – that’s not why I do it, now, either – but it was one of the things that turned me towards it, like James, I expect.

  2. Jonathan

    Friday 13th January 2012 at 9:55 am

    Well, I’d still be here because that’s not why I’m doing this. But maybe just relevant to say that yesterday I was talking to a woman about her eventual disposal (her word, she wants corpse to urn by shortest route), who told me about some dismal funerals conducted by secular celebrants: “It was all the worst parts of a religious funeral, only without the religion – piped music, men in black, and a man without a dog collar who CLEARLY knew nothing about the person who’d died. You, Jonathan,” she continued, “have a gift for it, and that is what’s needed, because it’s not something that can be learned.”

  3. Wednesday 11th January 2012 at 3:21 pm

    ..and my father’s funeral was, by the sound of it James, a similar affair, the following year. And that’s why I etc..so presumably if everyone gets an excellent funeral, secular or religious, the pool of celebrants and undertakers will gradually dry up! No more attempts to put right the unreachable past.

  4. Wednesday 11th January 2012 at 12:37 pm

    This elicited sadness with me, remembering my own father’s dismal disposal ‘service’. 1977, Roehampton Crem. Not preached at, just ignored, as was he.
    But then that’s why I do this particular kind of work!

  5. Wednesday 11th January 2012 at 8:46 am

    Pleased you did talk about him, Charles, because it’s a rewarding post, as is his original blogpost;I think he’s right, and it’s not only Christian ministers who sometimes like the sound of their own voices too much; secular celebrants can just as easily fall into that trap. We all have continually to remind ourselves why we are there, and exactly what we are doing and for whom – the uniqueness of the event must be prime.

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