“I’ve been to funerals where I was pretty sure the majority were atheists and they listened to the vicar say the deceased had gone to a better place and everyone’s toes curled. We can’t prove it’s not so but the chances that it is, are rather meagre. If they did believe you all meet up again in this big theme park in the sky why were they crying? How can you say you believe in the afterlife and weep at the finality of death?” — Ian McEwan
Catholic Herald contributor Francis Philips suggests this is a rather banal response to the mystery of death and the hereafter. She does so by comparing the novelist’s words with those of Cistercian prior Christian de Chergé, who anticipated his own death at the hands of Algerian terrorists in 1994. Two years before his beheading, he wrote:
“I should like, when the time comes, to have the moment of lucidity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down… For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that joy in everything and in spite of everything.”
This profoundly Christian approach is the antithesis of dreary funerals, argues Phillips. ‘As for weeping at funerals, tears are part of life, of being human… Christian de Chergé’s family would also have wept – even as they believed their son was now united forever with God’.