The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Always go to the funeral

Monday, 15 October 2012

 

I believe in always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.

“Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it

In going to funerals, I’ve come to believe that while I wait to make a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that let me share in life’s inevitable, occasional calamity.

On a cold April night three years ago, my father died a quiet death from cancer. His funeral was on a Wednesday, middle of the workweek. I had been numb for days when, for some reason, during the funeral, I turned and looked back at the folks in the church. The memory of it still takes my breath away. The most human, powerful and humbling thing I’ve ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to the funeral.

These words are taken from a short essay by Deirdre Sullivan. It’s well worth reading. 

If you’re a celebrant, you might consider commending your congregations for having made the effort to come (something I signally failed to do at the funeral I led on Friday.) 

5 comments on “Always go to the funeral

  1. Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 8:38 am

    How quaint to see that word ‘duty’ freed from its mothballs.

    I think you’re absolutely right about the stage management of funerals, QG. Your way would also spare ‘the family’ from having to emerge from their lims in full view of everyone and withstand the emotional ordeal of watching the coffin being unloaded — the ‘grief bravely borne’ routine.

    And then there’s seating — and stopping that great gulf opening up as people dive into a back row…

  2. Quokkagirl

    Wednesday 17th October 2012 at 7:51 am

    Totally agree – a sense of duty to others is vital in a civilised society. And yes, the gathered should always be thanked for their attendance.

    There seems to be a preference for all mourners to follow the coffin into the chapel/crem but sometimes it is rather wonderful to have all the mourners gathered inside prior to the entrance of the coffin and chief mourners……….rather like a wedding entrance where the bride can see all those who have assembled and a sense of something important happening.

    There is a sense of drama and respect as they stand when the deceased and the chief mourners enter. So much more powerful than the modern ‘gathering up and shuffling of chatting (and often in the way) stragglers as the coffin is prepared to be borne from the hearse into the building.

  3. Kathryn Edwards

    Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 9:48 am

    How I wish everyone would take on this sound and proper guidance. Too often I have hear people say that they don’t ‘like’ funerals and they ‘don’t feel like’ going to one. Bring back a sense of duty!

    This is a beautiful post that took me on a long and uplifting online wander.

  4. Monday 15th October 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Indeed, I had the same breathtaking feeling when I walked into the church behind my father’s coffin and saw the great and good assembled to bid him farewell. Suddenly he grew so much bigger in my heart – not just ‘my Dad’ but faithful employee, good neighbour, loyal workmate, family friend, customer at the village shop, occasional visitor to the local pub – all these facets, and more, represented by each of those precious people who ‘did their old fashioned duty’ and came to his funeral.

  5. Monday 15th October 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Wisdom here Charles, and a very good tip from you. Thanks.

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