Funeral attendance in a transient, modern world

Charles 3 Comments

 Centenarian birthday candles spell out '100'


Posted by Richard Rawlinson (who is 100 today)

The love between husband and wife or parent and child is natural, bred into us over millions of years. Not so friendship, apparently. Until farms and villages started to appear around 35,000 years ago, people allegedly refused to talk to each other, networks of friends being anathema. 

Fast forward to the 21st century when prosperity and technology allow plenty of leisure time, when people cross the globe for education and employment, when social media allows friendships to form across countries and continents. 

But how many of us find we’re still so busy as to neglect all but a handful of our closest friends, that our A-Z list of names in our mobile is unsustainable? How many of us move jobs or homes, or change partners, and find former friends drop off the radar? Those friendships didn’t seem fragile at the time. 

And how has modern life affected funeral attendance? Do we go to more funerals because we know more people, even if some of them are not particularly close? Was friendship so much deeper in the days when more people lived in the same close-knit community all their lives, or is this a view of the past through rose-tinted spectacles? 

My hunch is that mobility and greater leisure time enable more meaningful friendships than in the past, but, as we no longer necessarily have intimate knowledge of many of our wider circle’s physical and internal lives, perhaps some friendships are less intense, less ‘familial’. 

And how has transient modern life affected the love between parent and child, and, therefore, family funerals? Despite the bonds of blood, I’m sure it was ever thus that parents and children can irritate each other, and even more so when being constantly in each other’s vicinity.

Death somehow strengthens bonds, whether or not we fully appreciated family in life. In our busy lives, we might live far from home, and fail in our duty of visits and phone calls. Some feel regret and guilt when their neglected parents die.

It’s spring, the season of cleansing and renewal. Make amends with a long lost friend. Show your Mum and Dad how you love them. Even make peace with a blog sparring partner. 

Footnote: Social media relationships are especially fickle. Strangers bond in agreement but, distanced by technology, also sneer more readily in disagreement. Mutual respect can end at the press of a ‘Send’ button, and a war of words can escalate at a pace it rarely would at a ‘real’ social gathering. Like Hyde Park Corner on a global scale, the internet liberates the ‘soap-boxer’ and heckler in us. I should know: this is my 100th blog here! Oh, the pain and pleasure of being a square peg in a round hole.


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gloria mundi
10 years ago

Congratulations on your 100th birthday Richard – you don’t look a day over 70, you know.

Ru Callender
10 years ago

I have a feeling you wouldn’t have your block any other shape Richard.
Well, we have disagreed, but the quality of your thought and writing give me a very a warm feeling towards you Richard. Respect at your centenary. Long may you provoke further reflection.

10 years ago

Thanks both.

Rupert, religion and politics tend to inform much opinion. Ours have clashed, but we agree on the fundamentals of a good funeral. My block? It’s not a case of right ways and wrong ways based on trad ways and prog ways. Freedom of choice and good service whatever is chosen is the common goal. You clearly do what you do well!