What Do You Say at a Funeral?

It was my friend’s funeral today. And I have to say it was one of the worst experiences I have been through. There was no way it could be otherwise, of course, some things just have to be endured.

I’ve been to funerals before. Several of them. But none for a relatively young man who died for no reason. None for someone I loved in quite the same way as I loved him. I found that I payed more attention to what was being said.

And I struggle to see how the words could bring comfort to anyone. The minister preached on Lazarus. Yes, exactly, the raising of the dead Lazarus. I seemed to be the only person who felt this was incredibly insensitive to a family who’s son wouldn’t be raised from the dead after 4 days in the tomb. I also found the continual quoting of “I am the resurrection and the life, … whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die” (repeated at least 4 times) to be rather offensive. And I could not join in the hymn “How Great Thou Art” in seeming celebration of this cruel event.

Up to this point I have been very content to let my funeral be however my family want it to be. That would probably mean some liberal Christian service. After all, I’m not going to be around in my funeral, it is for their benefit.

But tonight I am quite angry. I don’t want the story of Lazarus at my funeral. I don’t want my death to be an excuse for blithe bigotry. I don’t want my family to find comfort in singing of the pre-ordination of my demise.

But I don’t know what I do want. Well, I’d end with Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”, but beyond that I don’t know.

But if I can muster up some coherent final wishes, I might now have the courage to make them known.

Any ideas?


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5 responses to “What Do You Say at a Funeral?

  1. I tried to stay away from that kind of music and message when I planned my first wife’s funeral. Like you I have found some evangelical funerals to be a bit on the offensive side.

    What I appreciate most are the personal stories and tributes from family and friends. Recently a friend committed suicide and his daughter addressed the issue head on in what she shared – it was an amazing talk.. her courage was inspiring.

    I am sorry about your experience at the funeral and wish you comfort at the passing of your friend. Sometimes life just sucks.

  2. Sabio

    Let them have their silly ceremony, but request an uproarious wake afterwards for us all to party in memory of you ! (Best to you Ian)

  3. ugh. sorry you had to sit through that. that idiot preacher doesn’t have a clue of the sensitives, and instead tries to “win over” people at a funeral. BOO!

    i dunno about you, but i like sabio’s suggestion. i kinda want the Tibetan Book of the Dead read to me as i lay dying surrounded by family and friends, if i am so lucky. at the funeral i want lots of food and beer and the iTunes playlist entitled “my wake” to be played (which i need to start on, only 5 songs so far).

  4. Ian

    Great ideas, thanks guys. Riotous wakes aren’t really something I’ve seen in the UK. I’m not sure I’d have had the heart to party, but it was good to catch up with an old friend I’d not seen since high-school.

    Anybody ever been to a UU funeral?

  5. YES! it was really cool and meaningful for all who attended. everything was explained out as to why the rituals looked like they did and why the readings were read. very welcoming experience for both i attended.

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