I’m to bury a good friend Saturday. I’m sad, she was so much like my mother. Actually, I will not bury her. I will ‘officiate’ at her funeral. Probably not so in this case, but I’ve officiated at some of the most somber and emotionally sanitized events called ‘modern christian funerals’ in this new century. I personally miss some of the more honest openness with emotions I witnessed years ago. As I write this I am dealing with my own feelings relating to my dear friend’s passing. I will, of course, be the picture of professional decorum for the sake of her family and the church I pastor as we bury one of its most treasured members.
I do consider it such an honor to be asked to participate in any loved one’s funeral. My expected role in most modern funerals is to lead the remains of the departed loved-one down a chapel aisle, conduct a brief solemn service of prayer, songs, eulogy, and biblical comfort, then lead the remains and family out again. Then all proceed to a graveside event where again I and/or others lead said remains and family members to the final earthly resting place of the deceased.At this final gathering of family, friends, and other well-wishers a few solemn words of final rites and interment and a brief prayer, followed by brief words of solace to immediate family members will conclude the funeral. After a few minutes of final visitation with attendees the family will be respectfully escorted back to the limousine or personal vehicles to grieve and suffer their anguish privately, and ‘respectfully’ as we like to say.
My, how I miss some of the informality of southern funerals of my youth. Grieving loved ones were not frowned upon for allowing their grief and sorrow to pour forth in mighty torrents of emotions. Women would sob and sometimes grow faint. Children were allowed to cry openly; and rough, rugged manly men would sometimes wail in bitter anguish. At times if the deceased was righteous there might be pure exuberance over their ‘going home’ to heaven. Most folks I was raised with would not have understood the word, catharsis. Yet so many of those simple folks used that modern psychological method quite naturally to relief themselves of their pent-up deleterious emotions.
We didn’t know so much back then just how healing some folks’ “showing out” was. It was simply normal and accepted demeanor for people of the poor and lower-middle classes. In the name of dignity through the years we, the funeral professionals, have fashioned services that by and large relegates the grieving and sorrows of death to the private rooms and homes of surviving family members.
I sometimes wonder if in our dignified efforts to help those in sorrow we may be contributing in some small way to the increased used of prescribed pain-killers and anxiety drugs among good common, ordinary people. Maybe this post is just my effort at personal catharsis before I have to be professionally somber at my dear friend’s funeral. Oh, I’m sorry. I should have said, “righteously solemn” seeing I’m the ‘officiating minister’.