Funeral services | Time to light the eternal flame

LIGHT A CANDLE: A funeral is the time to celebrate our loved one's life, gather the memories, and store them for the next generation. It's all part of the grieving process. Photo: Shutterstock
LIGHT A CANDLE: A funeral is the time to celebrate our loved one's life, gather the memories, and store them for the next generation. It's all part of the grieving process. Photo: Shutterstock

Whether you have a loved one that wanted the quietest of funerals, or none at all, or the wildest razzmatazz with all the punk rock songs chosen, in order, the reasons why we have a funeral service are as diverse as we are ourselves.

Since time immemorial, in addition to offering a way to respectfully say goodbye to someone we love, funerals have been the way for us to express our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about life and death.

Funerals are also a good chance for us to stop and think, to wake up and ponder what we truly care about and how we want to spend our own remaining days.

We can also wonder at the preciousness of our own time on earth. So the purpose of a funeral is just as much about the living as the dearly departed really, and a time to ask ourselves the following questions.

Did the person I love have a good life? How well did the scales balance? What is life, anyway? Why do we have to die? There are no simple answers to these questions, but the funeral gives us a time and place to pause, to hold the questions in our hearts and begin to find our way to answers that give us peace.

A meaningful ceremony for our loved one is a tapestry, woven with many different elements, and it can create a profound change in those who attend; it's an experience that is much greater than the sum of its part.

While each family's ceremony will and should be a unique tapestry, it can only create a tapestry if it draws on the full repertoire of possible elements.

It is through combining the pieces of the ceremony - the viewing, music, readings, eulogy, symbols, actions, the gathering and the wake that the complete picture of your loved one emerges. While each element may seem random or superfluous when considered separately, they are essential to the final experience.

When we grieve but don't mourn, our sadness can feel unbearable and our many other emotions can fester inside of us. Mourning helps us heal, and the funeral is an essential rite of initiation for mourning.

Funerals are also social gatherings that bring together people who cared about the person who died. It's is a special time and place to support one another in grief.

At this time we also begin to convert our relationship with the person who died from one of presence to one of memory. When we come together to share our memories, we learn things we didn't know and see how the person's life touched others.

It's never easy to accept the death of our loved ones, but a funeral helps us begin to do so.

To accept it with our heads, is hard enough, and only over time can we keep the memories close to our hearts.

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