Funerals that make Connections


Sadly, many funerals are fixed and truly dead. They are full of words repeated over and over again by priests and celebrants who do a job, and aren’t very interested in the person that died. Their prescribed words bear little relationship to the person who died… and these occasions can be the most tragic funerals of all. The joyful funerals are the ones that honour the individual to the full – they are powerful and meaningful and those attending get a genuine feeling of connection. 

If the funeral works one should imagine that the deceased attended, and enjoyed it.  Maybe they are enjoying the words of love, the music, the memories and the readings. I believe that when one gets the funeral right, whoever died, be they Buddhist, Christian, Jew or Atheist, it is the correct ceremony of departure that resonates with the person that died and the funeral attendees. That resonance is recognisable and perfect.

Funerals reveal fascinating patterns of human behaviour. The younger the person that dies, the more people that attend. Older people get families that may or may not love them, who may or may not attend but when they are there, and contribute, this can be inspirational. The death of a child is particularly tragic, because it’s about the death of potential. The death of somebody who was very popular, like a celebrity is always interesting, but equally powerful and interesting are the funerals with very few attendees. One of the most powerful funerals I have ever conducted was a Buddhist funeral that involved just me and the best friend of the deceased. His friend had a massive knowledge of Buddhism, and could speak passages from the Tibetan Book of the Dead in fluent Tibetan. I found some astonishing readings and also some beautiful chants and bells and used my own Buddha to oversee the service. Although we were not allowed to burn incense, the chapel attendant overlooked the matter of lighting candles. Somehow the friend and I got it right. It seemed that the little family chapel was suddenly full of spirit, sound, love and connection. The deceased was there… but then the deceased should always be there, whatever you believe. Here’s a lovely Buddhist reading:

It is not the end of the world,
when it is the end of a life
it is the beginning of another life,
in ‘another’ world.

The best way to honour a relationship
is not by despair that it is lost,
but to be grateful for what it was worth.

It is not the end of a relationship,
when it is the end of a life;
it is but the temporal suspension of it,
till another time.

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