Thursday, April 11, 2013


I haven't felt much like writing this last week, though I have been reading a bit.  On two consecutive days, I have heard of the untimely death of a 41 year old I knew, a lovely man; and now, there is news of a younger man we know, who has been posted missing while walking last weekend in the Scottish hills.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a funeral of a 41 year old woman. I first met her about the time she left school.  She had cancer of the liver.  Her son is about the age she was when she gave me her first bright smile, and, when I was almost a new person on the block.  Her very long awaited second child, is nearly four years old.  the Humanist service the woman chose, was personal, inclusive, and it comforted me a great deal.  The family mourners commented on how it was helping them too.

It got me thinking about other farewell services and rituals I had participated in locally in recent years.  Of the many Christian funeral services I have been to, only three of them, I am sad to say, were non-divisive.

One minister could have started  a religious world war with his words.  He was offensiveThere was a lot of embarrassment, and people personally apologised for what had been said to  a couple of mourners who were not Christians. That minister seemed to have a habit of upsetting people with his style of funeral sermons. My neighbours commented after their mother's funeral service, with screwed up faces,  how 'strange' the minister was.

Another minister always bluntly told all assembled that they could not expect salvation [of any kind?] if they did not believe in the way he believed, if they did not attend his church, notwithstanding, there were, and are, other churches in the community.

One Easter we paid our respects to a work colleague on the other side of town.  I had never heard of the presiding minister; there were some mumbles about him being new, and the mumblers hoped he would be alright.  The man of the cloth had been in situ about five years! How long do you have to serve in a place not to be 'new,' I wondered.  I settled down to wait for the expected uncomfortable fire and brimstone, but it never came.  The minister spoke of the departed man, then, thoughtfully and kindly addressed the family and the assembled mourners. 

Another gentle service was given by a locum minister from the Antipodes, who was so unprepared, he stumbled all the way through the 'words' devised for him, at his request, by the family.  'Crochet' (which the departed lady was good at) brought the man to a stuttered halt. With a stage whisper I put him out of his misery, and he successfully verbally stumbled on to the end.

The third memorable and welcoming service, was given by a young American Church minister to a packed house. He warmly greeted everyone. His sermon linked into readings from the Old and New Testaments, but, somehow he seemed to  loose the threads between the two readings I have never worked out what he was trying to convey.


Anonymous said...

Sends shivers down my spine ... but I am sorry for your loss.

Snowbird said...

Sorry to hear of your loss, your friend sounded lovely and how sad that she leaves a four year old behind.

I must agree with you about funerals, I have been to some that could start a religious war too.

Strangely, when my father died, the priest gave the strangest speech I ever heard. He talked of nature, the universe, energy, matter and spun off into the most amazing directions. My father was eccentric and would have appreciated the speech yet the priest knew nothing of my father.xxxxx

ZACL said...

Thank you GillyK.

ZACL said...

Hello Snow bird,

Interesting to hear of your experiences. The guy from the Antipodes seemed to reflect the departed lady; it was suggested that it was the reason she liked his visits so much and remembered them, when she had little else stored in short-term memory.

Anonymous said...

How sad that they both died at a relatively young age.
I've experienced both very good and rather bad funeral services, and feel that the later really are inexcusable.
I suppose that, for the most part, we tend not to think about such matters then when we have to just want to get it over and done with. Flighty xx

ZACL said...

I like to think about departed friends and people I liked, Mr F. Not in a morbid way; just when the notion takes me. I do not like their memories besmirched by inappropriate rantings given by people who believe they have the given right to hail and thunder down on people who may be emotionally vulnerable, who have arrived to pay their respects and see the remains appropriately despatched.

It maybe considered radical, however, the ministerial rantings leave me feeling, the ministers should be 'over and done with'.


Rebb said...

ZACL, Your post makes me realize I don't think I have experienced a poorly delivered funeral service. It would be quite horrible and surely wouldn't help with closure. You also bring to mind a personal experience, a homemade/family made service, if you will; not done in a church, but in the outdoors–now I realize why one of the attendees had tears and said it was one of the nicest services he had witnessed in a while.

ZACL said...

Hi Rebb,

Thank you for your comment.

We were told that our home made family funeral was one of the nicest.

I now believe that much valuable sharing and resolution is being lost in many of the formal funeral rituals I have experienced.