30 October 2011

I Hate Funerals

I know. I know. No one loves funerals, but lately I've gotten really opinionated about what makes a good funeral (if there is such a thing). I don't want to be disrespectful to 4th cousins twice removed, but the last three family funerals I've been to haven't been the best.

After my mom's funeral, my friend Tyler told me or told someone who told me that he didn't like the service. Obvious reasons aside. To be honest, I was numb through the whole thing, but after I heard that he wanted the opportunity to say a few words about my mom, I got to thinking. Yeah. Yeah. That's what I wanted to hear. I didn't want to hear someone try to convince me my mom was in heaven. I didn't want to hear about God and confessing your sins. I wanted something personal. A service that didn't come out of a guidebook and that would only work for my mom, because it was all about her.

I know people need/want different things from funerals. A chance to say good-bye. Closure. Comfort. I want to celebrate my loved one's life. I want people to talk about the deceased. Share memories. Laugh, cry, both. But make it personal.

Yesterday, at my Aunt Erlene's funeral, I wanted to hear stories. I wanted to hear about the time she and my aunts dumped a chamber pot on their heads. I wanted to hear about how she got into sewing. Or how she met her husband. Or what kinda of food she liked to cook.

I wanted to hear funny stories, sad stories, embarrassing stories. I wanted to hear about my aunt. Not what the Bible says heaven looks like. Or some anecdote about a guy on a plane.

If I had been given the chance to share a story, I would have talked about the time my aunt and I picked a total stranger up from the Des Moines airport less than a week after 9/11. I would've talked about how easy it was to talk with her, despite going years between visits. I would've talked about how looooooooooooong phone calls with her could last. Or about how hard she tried to keep me in the family. I've heard dozens of stories about my cousins' kids' kids, but wouldn't recognize them in a store.

When my time comes, someone please remember that this is what I want for my service. Say a prayer or two, but spend the majority of the service talking about me. It's my big farewell after all. Talk about how good of mom I was. Or my first - orange - car. Talk about about much I love to read and camp and listen to music. Tell embarrassing stories. Talk about my tattoos. Remind people of the time I bungee jumped.

Cry. Laugh. Pray. Hug. But reminisce. And don't play sad songs. And don't wear black.

1 comment:

Written Permission said...

This is going to sound wrong, because who talks about how much they loved a funeral service, but: My Great Aunt Mary passed away last Christmas, and her funeral was just amazing. It was EXACTLY what you're talking about. It was religious, because she was very religious, but it was also extremely personal.

The reason it was so very personal? She planned it herself. Almost down to the last detail. She was 92, knew her time was approaching, and decided to take control of things. She has a ton of grand- and great-grandchildren, and all them were involved in the service, either singing/playing songs or reading something or talking about her life -- her grandson even preached. And afterward, everyone gathered for a meal and passed a mike around and told hilarious stories about this amazing woman.

Bottom line: It was a celebration, not a mourning.