What is a funeral for?

Charles 3 Comments

A survey of this blog’s favourite obits’ page in the Times Colonist in Victoria, on the west coast of Canada, yields features of interest.

12 deaths are recorded this week. So far as I can see, there’s not a single funeral among them. The breakdown reveals: 3 celebrations of life; 2 memorial services; 3 no service of any kind; 3 private gatherings; 1 not specified.

I wonder if the spirit in which these obits are written is informed by the fact that there will be no funeral?

I am struck by one, in particular, which addresses not the readers but the dead person. It concludes: “At your request, we will have a family gathering in your honour late summer in Cumberland.”

Read them all here.

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13 years ago

Is this apparent tendency for a memorial a predilection for something inherently better than a funeral, or a reaction against something so absolutely bloody awful you’d want to avoid it at all cost?

History seems to me to suggest the latter.

Perpetua's Garden
13 years ago

Charles, I am amused that you keep posting these Victoria Columnist obits – did I tell you my parents live in Victoria? It is THE retirement choice for Canadians, since it’s warm and dry compared to the rest of Canada. It’s also very English, in an old-fashioned way. And yet it is not surprising that they avoid funerals there – the West Coast on the whole is the tradition-breaking avantguarde of America. I wouldn’t go as far as Jonathan as saying that funerals are perceived as “so absolutely bloody awful” as to be avoided like the plague. There simply is… Read more »

Charles Cowling
13 years ago

Thomas, I didn’t know you had this connection. What a brilliant insight you provide. The reason for posting the obits is because this is a matter of appalled/semi-appalled fascination to many Brits. And of course we view Victoria’s NSBR through the prism of our own funerary practices, so Jonathan’s observation above is revealing. I spoke at the University of Winchester a couple of weeks ago and argued mischievously that many deaths do not require a funeral. The Head of the Religious Studies dept was reduced to fury by what I said. I was struck by his academic closed-mindedness and tickled… Read more »