There are two ways of looking at it – aren’t there always? Either funerals, by loosening up, jettisoning the f-word and calling themselves celebrations of life, are becoming more meaningful, more expressive of what people want to express; or they have become merely conventions of gaudily-clad denialists engaged in an altogether silly and fruitless buck-u-uppo displacement activity.
Wherever the truth lies we have reached a pass – it’s a sign of progress – where certain folk are going to dig their heels in, wind back the clock and go for something retro.
Blogger Matt Archbold (thanks for this link, Pam Vetter) is a Catholic and he wants to restore the oft-dropped tradition of praying for souls in Purgatory (well, his soul, anyway). Active interventions by the living to ensure the wellbeing of their dead, practised to the max by the excellent Hmong, died out with the Churches’ downgrading of Purgatory and the Other Place. All sorts of theological reasons. They don’t seem to be consistent with a loving and merciful God, do they, Purgatory and Hell? As for Protestants, they are taught that salvation is down to whether or not you deserve it. No amount of cheering from the touchline can possibly sway a just and omniscient Supreme Being.
Archbold holds no truck with this revisionism: “Here’s what I want you guys to say at my funeral: Matt Archbold was fairly despicable at times. He was meaner than he was kind, proud of his humility, and not all that nice to his family or friends. Vain. Sarcastic. Selfish. While these may be qualities of a good blogger, they do not bode well for sainthood.
“We have no reason to suspect that Matt Archbold is in Heaven. In fact, I’d just about guarantee he’s not. If God in his infinite mercy somehow allowed Matthew to enter Purgatory it would be a reflection of His mercy rather than any attributes Matt evidenced throughout his life.
“Let us all assume, to be safe, that Matthew is in the bottom rung of Purgatory. Matthew’s fingernails are firmly dug into a cliff at the furthest edge of the Purgatory city limits and he’s hanging on there, his little feet dangling over Hell.
“And the only way you can get him out of there and nearer to Heaven is through your prayers. Pray now. Pray on the ride home. Pray when you get home. Pray. Pray. Pray for days, weeks, and years to come. Please pray.”
Sky News journalist Colin Brazier, who recently survived cancer, shares related retrogressive tastes in funerals:
“Do not go to Tesco and buy one of the supermarket’s tasteless In Sympathy cards. They come in a range of bright colours. Many of them display a lily – popular even before the death of Our Lady Of Versace – but even more so now.
“Do not buy one of the Hallmark cards which could easily be mistaken for an invitation to a child’s birthday party. Contrary to the message these cards are trying to communicate – death is actually grim, frequently bleak, and my (hopefully) grieving family will not be comforted by mass produced frivolity.
“Do not, if you are invited to my funeral, turn up wearing colours of a celebratory hue. I deplore the fashion for “wearing bright colours” – a trend in danger of becoming every bit as obligatory as the rigid absurdities of Victorian widow’s weeds were a century ago. There is nothing starchy and stuffy about wearing black. Dignified dark clothing is not an expression of despair. It is a way of stopping other people bathing in the attention which should be reserved for the deceased and his or her close family. I want my life to be remembered, not celebrated. I do not want my faults airbrushing from history.”
More Matt Archbold here.
More Colin Brazier here.