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.
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.