The Good Funeral Guide Blog

The pain passes, the beauty remains

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

 

The reasons why most of us require the presence of a dead body at a funeral are well rehearsed. There’s more to this than force of habit. 

In a nutshell, the dead body concentrates the mind and brings appropriate intensity to the occasion. It’s an ordeal, but an emotionally valuable ordeal. Take it away and you’ve got an altogether less focussed, less useful event. 

This being so, why do most celebrants omit to propose making funeral arrangements in the presence of the person who has died? Would this not also be an emotionally valuable ordeal?

 

 

 

8 comments on “The pain passes, the beauty remains

  1. gloria mundi

    Wednesday 4th April 2012 at 4:18 pm

    “So if we want to feel present with them, it is we who must move towards them, and not try and bring them back to where they used to be when we could see them.

    Which is, of course, the purpose of the celebrant’s visit.”

    Sometimes it’s just worth pulling out, quoting and isolating a really useful thought – as above. Thanks Jonathan.

  2. Wednesday 4th April 2012 at 11:09 am

    Jonathan, if this blog has any value at all it is for the comments it elicits — especially from you. The c of r as ‘museum for a corpse’ is typically and inimitably brilliant, as is ‘How to Behave After a Death in England and Wales’. You provoke deep thought, and also that LOL thing Ru refers to, in equal measure. Thank you!

  3. Jonathan

    Wednesday 4th April 2012 at 8:06 am

    Postscript: I should point out that I’ve been with a body in the place where the above commentor Ru Callender, along with his partner Claire, invites people to be with their dead’s remains, and it’s a different animal altogether, without all that attitude and prohibition that actually distances our dead artificially. No ghastly ‘chapel of rest’ at The Green Funeral Company.

  4. Jonathan

    Wednesday 4th April 2012 at 7:58 am

    Now here’s a provocative one, Charles you old rogue!

    Funny, it hadn’t occurred to me that we could go to the undertaker and heave the body out of its fridge into the chapel of rest. The ‘chapel of rest’ is, to me, the very place where real emotions are barred. It’s a museum for a corpse dressed up as a person where you’re supposed to go ‘Oh, doesn’t he look peaceful’, or any of the clichés in the Department of Decorum’s leaflet; ‘How to Behave After a Death in England and Wales’. You aren’t encouraged to beat your breast and yell ‘No, no, she’s dead, I can’t bear it’ in earshot of the other customers and create a noisy scene, even if that’s how you feel, but you ought to be. We can’t confine our dead bodies to some rightful place when they need to be anywhere and everywhere. So no, let’s keep the celebrants’ visits out of those awful, emotionally sterile places and bring them into the open. It’s time the dead came out.

    But in practice, that would mean deliberately and laboriously arranging for ‘the’ funeral director to bring the body home, then back to his or her premises later. It would accentuate its presence at the meeting and give it a false value, and probably inhibit rather than enhance true feelings or experiences or impressions that are to be communicated to the celebrant. (Oh yes, and it would cost £money.)

    The real problem is that we have the dirty habit of handing over the dead bodies of our having-lived to those who ‘arrange’ things for them with something called ‘taste’ or ‘dignity’ and render all the important questions idle, when the need – our need – is to have our dead’s empty bodies present with us, so we can ponder where they are now.

    No, actually, not to ‘have them present’ (let alone have them absent), so much as to be present with them, throughout. You can’t have a dead person present, can you; she’s dead. So if we want to feel present with them, it is we who must move towards them, and not try and bring them back to where they used to be when we could see them.

    Which is, of course, the purpose of the celebrant’s visit.

  5. Tuesday 3rd April 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Freudian slip Gloria. Lol, as the kids say..

  6. gloria mundi

    Tuesday 3rd April 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Er, that should of course read “boat,” not “boast,” sorry, the print’s so small…wonder if Lyra has that problem? And the home viewing/planning meeting is Jed’s excellent point.

  7. gloria mundi

    Tuesday 3rd April 2012 at 2:38 pm

    It is indeed an interesting proposal, and one that hasn’t occurred to me, so thanks. (Not sure about your word ‘omit,’ however, Charles. Omitting something is a deliberate action, or at least an action based on prior knowledge, even if forgetfulness or personal preference intervenes – but this is a new idea to me. Perhaps not to others??)

    It could only be a suggestion; I feel it’s likely (only a hunch based on their other behaviours, I admit) that some/many wouldn’t want that, would rather meet in the comforting surroundings of their own front rooms.For some families, having to meet up with a complete stranger is trial enough, even in their own front rooms. One would have to feel one’s way in this matter very carefully. For some people, we have maybe missed the boast- when bodies spent more time in the house, then we could have incorporated discussions around the coffin. Most “chapels of rest” that I’ve seen are not environments I feel would be conducive to the relaxing of inhibitions and the sharing of intimate feelings needed to get a good ceremony planned.

    There’s that old danger/issue, I think, of “knowing what’s good for them” vs “just doing same old because it’s safer.” Yes, it could be an emotionally valuable ordeal, or it could make it much harder for them to use the celebrant to find the sort of ceremony they want, because they find the “chapel” an intimidating or unhelpful, unfamiliar environment.

    H’mm. Interesting stuff indeed. I, for one, will certainly think on’t.

  8. Jehdeiah

    Tuesday 3rd April 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I think that could be a very valuable idea, I have often thought it would be good to meet in the chapel of rest. I would quite like to see Great Aunt Maud, and I think it might concentrate the bickering minds and voices if they stood in her presence. I’m a great advocate of family seeing the dearly departed too, but now I find myself in a quandary – I like to see them because they’re ‘not there’ so that would negate my earlier idea of standing in her presence…. Catch 22 I believe?

    It would work if Great Aunt Maud was in the house, where you meet perhaps, where everyone is ‘at home’ and hopefully more relaxed.
    Not so sure now if it was in the FD chapel of rest… Especially as my meetings take at least 2 hours…

    I always ask to see photos and that seems to be the next best thing I suppose, as they gaze and reminisce on hopefully happier days.
    Though that’s still ‘their’ memories… I wonder how Great Aunt Maud would impose herself in her silent repose?

    Very very interesting proposal indeed!

    ( though when I first read it I thought you meant BEFORE they had died- wake up Jed)

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