Posted by: Diane | April 18, 2012

Funerals

A funeral is a death ritual…a meaningful death ritual.

Funerals have beautiful potential for healing – for training people to be celebrants of life, rather than fearers of death.  Males and females don’t grieve on the same schedule but funerals bring us all together to build a memorial to the person who died.

Funerals are the first step in healing – facing reality.

When I was teaching high school, I took my Grade 11 Anthropology, Psychology and Sociology class to the funeral home for a field trip and as strange as it might sound, it was always one of the most impacting days in my students’ lives. Spending the day at this particular funeral home exposed the students to the reality of death and to all that was involved in serving families with dignity and respect while they grieved the loss of a loved one.

Students could ask all the questions they wanted,  learned about the embalming process, visited the selection room, learned the price of coffins, were walked through all the various funeral arrangement plans, asked about cremation and were exposed to different cultural beliefs about dying – they were fascinated  with it all and felt that they were in a safe place to ask penetrating questions about death and dying. As a homework assignment, they had to draw their own tombstone and write how they want to be remembered. They also had to write their own eulogy. These were tough assignments because the students had to ponder and imagine, feel and express. Those students are now well into their university years and they still remember the impact of their day at the funeral home.

I also volunteered at the same funeral home for two years. I observed many different kinds of funerals during that time but one thing was constant –  those who are left behind want to remember.

So many people came to the visitation and funeral today – what a wonderful way to express love.

It was a good day…a really good day.

Visitation felt a bit like a party with old friendships being renewed,  new friendships being made and family catch up times happening in pockets all over the room. When I asked Phoenix, our 7-year old grandson if he knew what “visitation” was, he responded confidently with, “yup, Nana..that’s like vaporization, right?”  When we explained that he could take a flower from the casket “spray” (of flowers) and place it on the casket,  he was quite concerned about how we would all keep dry. Ah….it’s good to laugh on a day like this.

Phoenie knew that “Papak is going to need extra hugs today” so he stuck close to him, especially at the cemetery. One of my favourite moments of the day was watching Phoenie put his little arms around his Papak and comfort him without saying a word.  He sure loves his Papak.

The funeral service was so rich with glorious stories of old and beautiful songs bursting with hope. The Pastor talked in Estonian and English as he reminded us to celebrate “the secret things that belong to the Lord our God.”  (Deuteronomy 29.29) What a genuine man, a faithful and loving shepherd of his flock and a very present help in so many peoples’ lives.

It was a day to celebrate, enjoy a wonderful Estonian hot meal and mingle with loved ones. I asked my sister-in-law if she thought her father would be happy with the day. She was sure that it was so.

…and so we all said goodbye. God was honored and Harry Emil Lindström was remembered.

Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies–so the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7.2 NLT


Responses

  1. Diane, It has been so heartwarming to be able to read your blogs about the days surrounding the passing of my Uncle Harri…Especially since I couldn’t be there and travel from Texas at this time! I feel I have also been part of the “Family circle ” through these days! Your thoughts on Christian Grief I passed on to another dear friend who has just lost her 26 yr old son to a canoeing accident…his body not yet been found!!! Thank you for taking time to reflect and thus, helping all of us in celebrating Uncle Harri’s life!
    hugs from Texas, Kulla Cornwell


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