Greatly respected/loved lady… and a great send-off.
Except that Aretha experienced no part of it, being dead.
I have toyed with the idea of having a big party in a few years time before (hopefully) I’m dead and while I & OH still have the energy to organise an event, and friends are still able to travel. A sort of pre-funeral event. But would that mean that everyone would have said goodbye and so not talk to me again?
People mark death in a variety of ways, and the ceremonies will suit the needs of participants in more or less satisfying ways. I think it rather self-indulgent to prescribe in advance for a ceremony that one can’t personally be present at, in the expectation that everyone will want to attend it or, worse still, that everyone should enjoy it and be grateful.
But it is the current fashion, and will inevitably give way to something else less ostentatious, or so I believe, and hope. Of course, opinions like this are seldom voiced, because of the “pissing in someone’s parade” charge. There is a certain tyranny of the vulgar in weddings and funerals, and I personally deplore it. For one thing it is driving up the cost of funerals beyond what is reasobale or affordable, and this is often a source of pain, humiliation and poverty for the bereaved; the bare circumstances of death generally lead to a fall in income for those who remain, and funeral expenses add the misery.
My form of my own obsequies will be decided my family to suit their own needs and purposes, not mine, but I do hope they not incur any expenses other than the expeditious disposal of my corpse, for which I have set aside provision.
They are unlikely to want any ceremonial at at any point in the proceedings, and a coffin will not be needed, I have suggested my ‘remains’ should be incinerated and no residue retained or ‘scattered’ (unless they want to).
My friends will be notified when all that is over, and will respond with sensitivity to my wife’s needs, as she shares them over time.
I have few memories of my Dad’s funeral as it was such a painful day but I do have a vivid memory from the wake.
My Dad worked for the same company his whole working life and when he retired early due to ill health he decided to do something useful. So, he became a non-executive director of the local health authority for a few years and then became a Magistrate which he absolutely loved. He was also a Samaritan for many many years.
At his funeral and his wake were people who he knew from all of these places as well as family, old friends, drinking buddies and neighbours. Seeing all these people together in one room enjoying a drink for my Dad and it struck me quite forcefully that it was such a shame he wasn’t there to experience it. He would have absolutely loved seeing all those people together.
It is a shame that we wait to do these things until after someone has died.
My Dad left a sum of money so that everyone could enjoy a good drink and something tasty… he had given me strict instructions to make sure all who attended the ceremony, knew they were invited afterwards, to the pub just down the road…
A funeral is no time to be miserable, he reckoned… but to celebrate the Life that has been. That was how he wanted things to pan out… and I did my best… . but, of course, there were tearful faces amidst the smiles as folk shared their memories of a lovely man.
Personally, I did take solace from knowing that Dad’s wishes had been carried out.
and I still miss him… always in my thoughts and in my heart…
My mom has just about everything sorted…will…solicitor…powers of attorney in several different circumstances…DNR orders…Only a couple of months back she decided she wanted to arrange the exact details of her funeral too so me and my sister wouldn’t have to worry about that either…
She has several policies that will more than cover the cost of a grand send off but it’s not what she wants…she wants a very simple affair…cardboard coffin maybe decorated with poppies but not essential…a simple posy of her favourite flowers…cremation…non religious service…donations in lieu of flowers to Alzheimer’s research…ashes scattered with my dad…
Anyway the funeral directors who organised my dad’s funeral 19 years ago were duly called…My mom showed them the insurance policies…but he said he couldn’t accept them and due to her age it was going to cost her something like 400 quid a month…!
Long story short…she told him where to go and despite our initial reaction of not wanting to talk about losing her… it’s now us who know exactly what she wants…
Hopefully many years yet before we have to carry out her wishes…x
I’ve attended many funerals including several here in France and expecting people not to be sorrowful is not particularly thoughtful, as for many the experience is an opportunity to express the profound grief and bereavement which has been dulled by the shock of seperation.
Here in France funerals seem to be held very shortly after death, and the idea of turning the occasion into a celebration of life might be regarded as unseemly if not wholly inappropriate.
My wife and I witnessed the sudden death in his garden of a next door neighbour, his wife found him dead at the bottom of the steps up to the front door. The sapeurs-pompiers tried to resuscitate him for 30 mins on his gazon in full public view, but in vain. After his body was taken away my wife and I entered his widow’s house to offer what support we could. The woman clung to my wife and sobbed and shook, as did my wife.
The funeral was a week later and the funeral was sombre and simple. The children and petit-enfants attended and were devastated. It took several weeks before the widow was able to begin to pick up the remnants of her life, to begin to eat again (“Il faut…”) and get a few hours sleep in the house alone.
I think it was a mercy that her husband had not written out a recipe for his funeral, and an invitation to the local bar for drinks afterwards.
Good that things are sorted out, Helen, and it seems to be the accepted “thing” that people are encouraged to decide what happens after their death, but I think it best for me to relinquish control over other peoples’ lives, and thus have them fulfil my wishes in circumstances that I can’t possibly foresee i.e the circumstances of my death and its aftermath.
This is just a personal view and I don’t suggest others should adopt it: but it may be worth thinking about.
In Africa, when someone dies their usual dish or cup is smashed, and the broken bits are placed on the grave. As a symbol of their having gone, and having no need more of mortal encumbrances: even the thoughts, desires and wishes of others. “Leave the dead to bury their own dead…” an ancient but wise injunction, I think (I am not a believing Christian).
There’s maybe a slight difference between the totally unexpected and the time to prepare anticipated…neither of which are without deep sorrow but also smiles between floods of tears when the member of the family is dearly loved…I think grief is an individual experience…we all handle it in different ways…the character of the lost one and knowing in advance what they may have wanted…being able to fulfill their last wishes …without knowing someone intimately it’s difficult to extrapolate people’s different reactions…certainly when my own dad left physical we had a month to the day to “prepare” ourselves emotionally…My mom was utterly and devastatingly lost…I think a part of her heart and soul went with him and despite our own grief we tried to be there for her…
His funeral was a bit of a blur…so many people saying how wonderful he was…people we hadn’t seen for years…I took on as many of their heartfelt memories as I could whilst watching over my mom…
It’s good to share views, this is not an easy thing to talk about, Helen. Death knocks all our preconceptions, illusions and assumptions for six, I’ve found. Like many other ordinary events, we can make plans for death and its aftermath, but like everything else in life, it has its own momentum and direction, and we do best to go with what it calls us to, in the moment. That’s how I see it. And each, of course, to her/his own. x
It does…my second born has looked at sky burial but not available in uk as far as we know…so she’s considering being buried in a bin bag and a tree planted on top of her so she can give life to a tree…not something I fancy personally as I don’t want anything left of me that may be dug up years later and contribute to a future fallacy…x
My Dad died when I was thirteen in 1961and I was not allowed to go to his funeral.
We were sent away to other members of the family whilst he was dying and I feel really aggrieved that I missed those last days of his life as we were really close.
I consider it extremely thoughtful of my Dad… he had led a good life and wanted to ensure his friends, family and whoever “enjoyed” his funeral.
There are a two aspects of French Funerals that did startle me when we first came over: the almost compulsory viewing (which I hate, but have learnt to do with a “brave face”) … and the speedy turnaround and I’ve got to grips with that as well
In my Commune, whether they be folk with a strong Faith or folk with a strong no-Faith… makes no difference, we hug, wipe our tears and exchange the same words… along the lines of …“have a good funeral”…
Allow the grief out (as it must), comfort one another as best you can … enjoy discussing and swapping memories, enjoy seeing folk (especially those you have not seen for sometime) celebrate the Life of the Departed and celebrate the Living (those of you who remain).
The actual service (civil or religious) follows those guidelines…
After the event, sometimes refreshments are offered in the SdFetes, but more often it is by invitation or family-only at someone’s home…
Sudden death or a merciful release… and everything in between… having these guidelines works well…
My mother had a horror of a being a public spectacle, most of her friends were old and in various stages of infinity (she lived to 95), the crematorium was a long long way away from her village, so we held a tea party in her village hall were she had spent many a happy time. The elderly could sit down, we decorated it with flowers from her garden and photos of her life, various people spoke about her, and a fine time was had by all while she headed off to the crematorium by herself as she always was an independant traveller.
What you describe, Stella, the time-honoured ritual, the natural personal intimacies, all that is the perfection of what it means to be human, and I applaud it, and your part in it, genuinely.
What I deplore is the contrivance, the ostentatious spectacle, the over-the-top competitiveness and ‘showing off’ of ‘bigger and better’.
The all-inclusive band-parades of New Orleans and parts of Spain is different, because open to all, as are the French funerals here in Sourdeval, which are all the same, and follow the same simple order, all go out the same way, the simple walk to the burial ground…
I do see where you are coming from, Stella
How sad for you Jane. Such different attitudes then and you are still affected by it today.
Presumably your father organised his funeral in the way that he would have enjoyed.
I attended two French funerals last winter, one a neighbour the other family. In both cases I was surprised how informal though respectful both services were. I had only experienced cremations, mainly in the UK, before and they had been very, almost over the top, serious and formal. I was expecting even more of the same in a Catholic church but both times were light and uplifting. A pleasant surprise.
She sounds quite a Lady, it was imo, an appropriate, ‘Good Send Off’.