It's difficult I know at funerals to be happy, they're not conducive to that state of mind, however at the one I attended today the minister said that it should be a celebration of the life passed away. This makes sense. Your friend is gone, but you shouldn't dwell on this, remember him/her for what they were, remember them making you laugh, cry, happy, angry. You may have lost someone physically, but their influence on you is part of who you are now. And that should be celebrated.

I have attended the funerals of my father's parents, and my own.

I do not remember my Bubby's (I think that's how you spell it: Jewish grandma) funeral at all. At my Zaida's, I remember how light the coffin was, and how I had my first drink with my father, a rye and ginger ale. There are gaps in my memory of this funeral.

I do remember the Rabbi placing my Zaida in the grand sweep of history: he came over from Latvia before 1900 on a flat raft on the North Sea--kind of like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, except the North Sea is not the Mississippi!

That was the best part of the ceremony for me. I was not happy, but it seemed my Zaida was part of things greater than himself--he was an atheist.

My father's funeral was a much different affair. As the eldest son it should have fallen to me to do most of the stuff. I couldn't. I lived in another city. I relied upon my father's accountant and friend--and my brother. It was a resonably Jewish arrangement, though my father was no more religious, though maybe less vehement about it, than was his father.

At the actual internment, I found, as principle mourner, a surprising relief: I took the clods of earth, and dropped them on his coffin, said goodby, and walked away.

My mother's funeral was quite different. Unlike my father's death, because he lived in a different city, I was present at my mother's. My brother was unhappy with the care I had given her--as if he had given her any, thinking, I suppose, that caring for our father, and being present at his death, entitled him to criticize.

Completely on my own for this one, I thought to do the thing with the clods of earth. Well, the funeral arrangers seemed never to have heard of the idea. They place a bucket of sand, as it turned out, nearby. It stuck to my sweaty hand; it was a hot, humid August afternoon.

Soon after that, my brother and I stopped speaking.

It took years to get my life back to some semblance of life.

Yet, I have no regrets, either about my care for my mother, or about how I still feel about my brother. I worked hard for my mother--and as hard as I was able for my father, and even my brother, though I was here, and they were there.

I have no regrets about what I did. Any failings in my life towards my mother--probably some--I burned off in caring for her.

Funerals should be a celebration, after all, they are for the living. As blowdart has commented, those who have died are part of me.

All things considered, things could have been worse.

When Dr. Seuss died, he specified a New Orleans funeral in his will. I'll never forget the video footage that CNN played. It was a few seconds of his widow, smiling, dancing on top of the hearse in a black miniskirt, high heels, and a parasol, while a band rocked in the background.

All I could think was "Damn, that's how I want to go out."

"Live so that they cry when you're born and laugh when you die."

A few months ago I received a phone call informing me of the untimely death of a former classmate from my elementary school. He had always been kind to me and we were pretty good friends for the time we spent together. Although he had suffered a facial deformity from an accident as a child (the same accident was the cause of his seizures- one of which ended his life) his presence was always one of a light hearted contentedness. The news of his death saddened me and I decided to attend the funeral.

I had been raised Roman Catholic and had been to several funerals in the past including another for a friend from the same grade school class. However, at the time of those other funerals I was still a devout Catholic. This time I was viewing the funeral through the eyes of an agnostic. Throughout the mass I watched the other members of the congregation while remembering my own experiences with the deceased. The priest spoke in a somber tone about the people he had touched during his brief lifetime. I couldn't help but wonder if this was the proper method to celebrate the memory of such a person. The priest spoke of community and the ways in which everyone effects one another without even knowing of the effect they have had. This sort of mass did not allow for any true sense of community to be felt. While we were all sitting in the same building we were still isolated from one another- completely immersed in our own thoughts and feelings. For this mass to truly mean anything to the congregation as a whole we need to celebrate the person we are remembering. Even if one does not believe in an afterlife it is important to share with one another the parts of the person that still live on within us. Masses like these allow us too easily to forget the individual and dwell only in the ritual.

When my best friend from age 8 to age 22 died a few months ago, it was absolutely and completely devastating.

The funeral was supposed to be about 200 people -- a small ceremony in a Christian church. Over 550 people showed up, most under the age of 27. Though everyone there was still in complete shock and denial, and tears were flowing freely, you could see smiles and laughing as you looked through the tears -- everyone was celebrating her life ...

I was honored to have had the chance to speak in front of all of these people. It was amazing to be able to talk about my closest friend in the world, how she had changed my life, and how I knew she had changed everyone's life that was there that day.

Her mom asked her friends in a punk band to get up in front of all of the friends and relatives to sing a couple of songs for her. Not your traditional ceremony music ... but that is what she would have wanted.

The day was sad, very, very sad. Even so, we all tried our best not to cry and feel sorry for ourselves, but rejoice in the young girl who had changed all of our lives for the better.

I love you Jen.
In my short lifetime, I've been to far too many funerals. But I don't want to get into that, into any of that pain. I just want to share a simple experience I had at a funeral for a friend's mother several months ago.

There was a baby at the funeral. A beautiful, healthy, happy 18-month-old, completely oblivious to the proceedings. Throughout the service, and the eulogy, and the readings from Scripture, he was gurgling and singing, joyfully, in his own private language, that baby-speech that is so difficult to understand if you are not the kind of person who discovers something new every single day.

Those of us who long ago stopped looking that deep couldn't help ourselves. The second we heard that unabashed laughter, we started grinning like fools. The baby put everything in perspective. Right there in the same holy space we had both life and death. For a moment everything was simple. For a moment we just cherished what we had lost and rejoiced in what we had. It was perfect. And that's why there should be a baby at every funeral.



Note: there should be babies to sing and laugh and play and cry at funerals for babies who have passed on, too. At every funeral.

I'm not big on religion - I'm not really sure how you classify my beliefs. I think I might be some sort of existentialist, but the label isn't really important to me. I believe what I believe.

Anyway, the point is, I believe funerals should be a celebration, but realise that in practice it's very hard for this to happen. For a start, it's hard to be treating it as a celebration when all those around you are weeping for their dearly beloved. To many people it makes you look uncaring, which I'm not.

The way I look at it is thus. The person is dead, shuffled off the mortal coil. I don't believe in an afterlife or reincarnation. Once you're dead, in my reality, you're dead. So, because of my beliefs, people have nowhere to go once they're dead, nothing to look forward to. One I can do, though, is look back. I remember all the happy times I had with that person, and all the happy times they had with their loved ones. I remember their accomplishments, and all the little ways they made the world a better place. The future, I reason, is bleak and does not contain that person. So, no point dwelling on the future and making myself sad, I look to the past and smile. That's my way of coping.

I am aware that other people have other beliefs and I respect that.

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