I came across an article online that was published in a small-town newspaper in Ohio. The headline read “Company Name” Provides Better, More Economical Funerals. It immediately struck me the article must be an advertorial and yet, that was hard to determine this as there were no editorial comments. That detail does not matter. What matters is the article seemed to have a bias regarding the church-based funeral company that is described as providing a broad range of funeral service to families. In addition to their claim of economic funerals, the article goes on to say “… They conduct funerals in churches because a church is a much better place to say goodbye to a loved one… ” HUH?!!
For some families, a church or religious based funeral is the perfect and most appropriate ceremony for them and their loved ones, however, that is not the case for all families. They also use the phrase “to say goodbye” and that, to me, implies a dreadful heaven and god-based ceremony where the focus is on death, dying, heaven and God while their life and time here on earth will become secondary. In my humble opinion, those traditional funeral ceremonies, sad, solemn and death based, are the reason so many people hate funerals or the thought of them. The word funeral for most people makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up – simply because of what they have learned based on experience.
My mother was not a church goer. She had beliefs but did not practice in that traditional sense of attending church every Sunday and sitting around after the service in the church hall drinking tea and eating Dad’s Oatmeal cookies making small talk with other parishioners. That was not her thing. When she died suddenly in 1992, our minds and hearts were so overcome with shock, numbness, and grief we did not have any idea what to do. She was only 49 and statistically should have not died for another 30-35 years. A quick lesson to everyone that death is but one second away from all of us. When we approached the funeral home to make funeral arrangements, we were asked which church in that small town we would be having her funeral at and they would take care of booking it and the minister. At the time, that seemed to be the obvious thing to do and in our shaken, irrational state, we had no meaningful conversation around this, we simply chose a church. It was not the funeral my mother would have planned or wanted but back then, we knew no different. Thankfully, times have changed.
There are alternatives to church-based funerals. While comforting and appropriate to many families, they will not provide that same comfort to others. The word Life Celebration is used extensively nowadays, and it seems is used to mask the word funeral. The true, Life Celebration will focus on an individual’s life, their relationships, their impact on the world and what others will remember about them. A Certified Life Celebrant can help a family through the entire journey of planning the perfect ‘funeral’ and having that individual officiate that day.
We have much work to do in educating the public about alternatives for funeral services. Gone are the days where the only alternative is carrying that casket up a flight of stairs into a church and praying someone into heaven. Let us all remember, they died for a second but lived for tens of millions of seconds. Tell me what the focus should be at the conclusion of their life.
Founder and Trainer
Life Celebrants International