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.
Even with a traditional New Orleans funeral, the march to the grave was solemn. It was only the return that was lively.
I went to a "Celebration of Life" funeral at a black Methodist church for a forty year old women who died of a chronic disease.The parents were grief stricken and the pastor of the church was seemingly oblivious to the family members, bebopping to the music as the family filed out, no empathy from him at all.
The funeral was presided over by multiple clergy as the father was a retired pastor and portions of the ceremony were discordant with with the needs of friends and family. I thought it seemed cruel.
mc23 -- I hear you.
My father's funeral suffered from multiple clergy, even though he chose the clergy before he died. Actually, my father's funeral was traumatic for me in several ways and it's led to me instructing my offspring on what NOT to do at my funeral.
Though not what you mean by "Celebration of Life" I would have been pleased for some of my father's accomplishments to have been acknowledged beyond the fact that he donated mucho dollars to a church, and therefore I also should. He was far from a perfect man - married five times, three divorces. But he was also always financially honest and helped many people with no interest loans or forgiven loans that kept several businesses in business.
How about "Acknowledgment of a Life well-lived"?
I'm also thinking of the murder of a friend and what her family put together as a 'celebration" of her life. She and her husband were murdered because they were living as they thought they should -- to always help someone in need. In their case, it was to offer someone a ride home.
I've always despised the term, though indeed I have no objection to a funeral that both acknowledges grief and revels in memories of the deceased.
The most annoying thing about invitations to a celebration of life is that the person issuing the invitation somehow always manages to imply that he's just now thought of this novel notion: you thought we were going to mope, but we're going to do something fresh: Cheer up! we're going to celebrate! Because that's just the kind of people we are! It's barely tolerable if I wasn't strongly attached to the deceased, and perfectly awful if I was.
Which reminds me, you need to write up some stuff for your funeral, and let’s put together some of those video pieces in the next month or so. The church is perfectly set up for filming now. And it’s not like you and I will look any better in the coming years.
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