For many years, I’ve avoided funerals, and made excuses for not going. If you’re over 50, you’ve probably realised, as I have, that funeral invitations come more often at this age. So I’ve decided to face in to funerals, and this is a progress report.
I recently attended the funeral of a friend in her mid-seventies, who seemed healthy at my wedding four months ago, but was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died within a few weeks. Linda and I visited her in the hospice, and like many others, were moved and inspired by the positive way that Caroline met her death: to her, it was a transformation, not an ending, and she said, “I can’t wait to see what’s next”.
It was a lovely funeral service, full of joy and celebration of a special woman, but I still found it difficult, and I’ve begun to realise there are many reasons why funerals are inherently difficult, including:
They make you think about your own death, and your funeral. Will I be so warmly remembered, by so many people, as Caroline was?
- It’s against the usual English norms to show strong emotions in public, but maybe it’s appropriate here?? In any case the mix of emotions is confusing: grief, loss, joy, celebration…
- Funerals typically bring together lots of people who hardly know each other, and maybe some who’ve fallen out and haven’t spoken for years, so it may be quite a disparate group.
- Those attending the funeral often have very different connections with the deceased, ranging from very intimate to acquaintances at work. I think it’s inevitable that a funeral service can’t fit this range, it may be too personal for some, and not enough for others.
I came away from Caroline’s funeral uplifted by a shared celebration of a good life, and appreciating the ways she and I had enriched each other’s lives. When the next funeral invitation shows up, I’ll probably still feel resistance, but I’ll be clearer that the difficult bits are best faced into and grown through.