Monday, April 11, 2011

Knocking On Heaven's Door

"Out, out brief candle…” ~ William Shakespeare
Funerals are interesting experiences. If it’s for a loved one it is an emotionally draining time. If it’s for someone you haven’t seen in a while, you feel sad and may wish that you had kept in touch. If it’s for a friend’s loved one, you feel bad for your friend and hope that they get through the ordeal of the day without completely falling apart. And when you see people at possibly the worst time of their lives, what do you say?  “I’m so sorry for your loss.”, although true, sounds so trite. It may seem morbid to talk about death, but it is going to happen sooner or later to all of us. It’s not my intent to upset anyone; I’m just stating a fact.
The reasons for attending a funeral can vary. You may go to honour the life of the deceased, to say your good-bye to a loved one, to see relatives you haven’t seen in a while or to support the bereaved during their time of grief. Whatever the reason for attending, it is usually a very somber affair. But there are exceptions.   
Is it a bad thing to smile at a funeral? I think not. I recently attended a funeral where family members recounted memories of the deceased that brought smiles to the mourner’s faces (including mine) and even evoked a few chuckles, and displayed pictures of happier times with loved ones. I think it was a beautiful tribute.
As I leave a funeral, I always find myself thinking of the others who have gone forth to that “undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns”.  The difference with this funeral is that afterward I found myself smiling and feeling grateful for those people who had been in my life.
As I think about my own mortality, it bothers me to think of my loved ones sorrowfully shuffling past my empty shell. I have decided that a “viewing” is not something that I would appreciate, once I “shuffle off this mortal coil”. Instead, I would much rather have every useable part of my remains donated to science and anything left over cremated and sprinkled over a cliff into the crashing surf.(I would love to spend eternity in the sea.) I realize that my loved ones may feel the need for a memorial service, and that would please me, but for God’s sake, none of that “Ashes to ashes ...” He has heard all of that before. Instead, just say “Here she comes, God!” That’s all that’s really needed; He already knows what’s in my soul.
I have no problem with spending a few minutes of quiet reflection or prayer, but I sincerely hope that instead of dwelling on my death, that my mourners spend some time celebrating my life and if anyone would like to get up to say good-bye, that would be fine as well, but instead of “Amazing Grace”, how about “For She WAS A Jolly Good Fellow” as a send off?

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