Does this sound familiar?
“At George’s request, cremation has taken place. There will be no funeral home visitation or service. As expressions of sympathy, donations to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre would be appreciated.”
“At Jenny’s request, there will be no funeral home visitation. A family service will take place.”
You will find these kind of sentences at the end of many obituaries. I believe this is a recent phenomenon. I might be wrong. It is religious people and non-religious people who choose this kind of end of life celebration. It is often said that these arrangements were made by the person who has died. They have told their family or the funeral director that they do not want anything after they die.
Sometimes, there has been family conflict, and the family finds it difficult to be together. I can understand that. Or, the person who has died does not want people to go out of their way to remember them. The deceased person thinks that this might make it easier for the surviving people.
Why do people not want any services or remembrances of their life? It might be because they were introverts in their life, and they do not want a fuss made after they die. I am an introvert, and I could see wanting to be left alone, but the funeral and visitation is not for me. It is for the community and family who want to make sense of the loss of their loved one. I think it is important for community building to have a visitation and a service for the community.
There are churches in our community that always have visitations, and hundreds of people show up. Seemingly, the whole community comes out. The lines are long, and the grieving people are happy to greet these many people who want to show compassion. For some visitations, it takes hours to go through the whole line and greet the family and friends.
I think this is healthier. Death becomes very real. People want to come out and show their compassion. If people plan a visitation and funeral service, they are appreciative when people take the time to come. It is not what you say, it is that you show up. Community happens.
Nothing, or everything, or something in-between. Many people in this world are lonely. I think it is a great idea to have something, so that people can be in the midst of people.
I mentioned I am an introvert, so my inclination is to be by myself when someone I know dies. But I need people to walk with me during the beginning of my grief. I am also a mystic, and so I want to deal with death with God by myself, but I need my community; and I must not go inside myself too much, because it would add to my loneliness. I need the community. We need community.
“Everyone is invited to the church foyer, to celebrate with family, friends and the community for John. We want to be together so we might feel the compassionate community, and we do not want to walk this journey of grief and loss by ourselves. Please come out and grieve with us.”
I like the way that sounds.
Fred Redekop is the church and community relations associate at Mennonite Central Committee Ontario. He previously worked for 30 years in Lancaster and Floradale, Ont. as a pastor. He blogs at Ponder Anew, where this post originally appeared.