I have decided I don't like the title "Celebration of Life." It seems a denial of the sadness and mourning, discouraging people from feeling grief, or at least expressing it. I am trying to think of a culture which has historically treated death with celebration, and can't come up with one. I think I first noticed the ceremonial change among those who were no longer Christian believers. I know a bit about Jewish funerals, but have only been to a few. I think that that culture is seeing a similar change among secular Jews, if the obituaries and stories at work are any indication. Do I have any observant Jewish friends anymore? Hmm.
But the idea has spread into the church as well. My oldest and his wife attended a Celebration of Life for a young man who had been at Concord Christian, then Asbury College with he and his wife. He was forty, and has an eleven-year-old son. We knew his parents and older brother as well. Parents burying their children is one of the saddest things in the world.
It is good to remember good things about the dead at the time of their passing. We have discussed my funeral with my sons over the years, usually in raucous humor, and I think they will tell jokes and stories - because that is what we do. I still can't see calling it a celebration. I have written about funerals, including my own, many times over the years, including a link to a Theodore Dalrymple essay. More than about weddings. That may be just my age, but I think it is morbidity as well.