Here’s an interesting and stimulating view of funerals from Guardian commenter Sussexperson:
Each to their own, and all that, but there are serious flaws in the “capturing the person” style of funeral. I’ve been involved in a depressingly large number of those over recent years, so can speak from bitter experience.
You don’t, as a rule, have very long to organise a funeral service: often, less than a week. Consequently, friends and family are scrabbling around for favourite readings, favourite music etc. If the funeral’s at the crem, you generally have to choose the least worst option from the music on offer rather than the single piece of music the dead person would really have wanted. If you’re tasked with giving the eulogy (or “saying a few words”, as it’s usually put), it’s just awful: the closer you were to the person, the less able you are to sum them up in a glib two-or-three-minute address. Result: the general attendees may come away saying the usual things about “a lovely service” or whatever, but you, the handful of nearest and dearest, know you’ve short-changed your relative/friend — that it’s all been a bit sketchy and inadequate. Horrible. And the guilt of that stays with you.
Myself, I’ve decided I don’t want to inflict all that on my own family/friends when I go. I’ve left instructions in my will that there’s to be no “saying a few words” or other DIY stuff at my funeral; it’s to be the traditional C of E Book of Common Prayer funeral service, and no nonsense. Not because I’m religious, but because it’s the most perfectly-constructed ritual I know of — and ritual is there for a reason. It externalises all the thoughts and feelings that people in grief (assuming anyone does grieve my departure!) can’t easily put into words themselves. It provides a framework. And it lets the mourners mourn, instead of foisting upon them the necessity of getting up an ad hoc bit of am-dram. Furthermore, by using the same ritual, the same words, that have been in use for centuries, it makes that single death part of a long continuity: something to be accepted as the fate of all mortals, not some exceptional outrage against natural law. Much more comforting, in my view.
Plenty of opportunity afterwards, over the funeral baked meats, for the anecdotes and personal reminiscences and quiet chuckles, if people want to do that.
In the same comments thread was this, from Remorsefulchekist:
I went to a Christian funeral and was bored witless.
I went to a Christian funeral and was moved beyond words
I went to an Atheist funeral and was bored witless.
I went to an Atheist funeral and was moved beyond words
Repeat with variations for Sikhs, Muslims, Pagans, Jews, Agnostics, Buddhists . . .
Guardian article here.