I think it’s a privilege to be invited to share in the celebration of someone’s life, and this week I said “goodbye” to my friend Bob at what turned out to be the best funeral I’ve ever attended!
Does it sound wrong the describe a funeral as “the best”?
I was hesitant to use those words when shaking hands afterwards with the Vicar, but I said them anyway because his way of being had turned what was still a sad occasion into an expression of love and laughter for what we’d all shared in our knowing of Bob.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to funerals where you get 20 minutes in and out of the Crematorium, a brief outline of the highlights of the deceased’s achievements read out by someone who obviously never met them, a couple of quick hymns, a reading and the standard Prayer, then press the button and that’s it – outside to view the floral tributes and off for a drink.
I’ve also been to funerals where things were far more personal, with touching tributes from close friends and family where I’ve left having found out a lot more about the departed than I’d known before.
So why did this funeral rise to the top of my (sadly growing) experience of this last rite of passage?
Connection and listening.
The Vicar brought us all into the space with his expansive welcoming gestures and opening remarks. He had taken a lot of time to speak to Bob’s family and close friends either in person or via email, and had deeply listened to what was said. He helped us connect again with the essence of our friend in life rather than death.
Everyone who shared tributes put their all into what they said. We remembered Bob through their description of their own vivid memories, which had us all smiling fondly in recognition and Ian’s story of his first meeting with Bob at the beginning of a ski ing holiday in the ’70’s – from his horror at Bob’s attire (the bow tie, the brogues, jeans, immaculately ironed white shirt all topped off with the full length fur coat) – to the supreme confidence and larger than life character brought us all into connection with the man who was our friend. The applause at the end of Ian’s speech said it all.
The poem his daughter wrote for him and read out was deeply touching, her composure belying her young age – he would have been so proud of her.
And the closing part of the service was something I’d never encountered before when the Vicar invited the close family to gather round the reed coffin to stand for a moment in silence and touch the coffin for a final goodbye.
This funeral had been arranged to give everyone the precious gift of time to say goodbye and share memories together. There was no pressure to “hurry up and move on so the next lot can come in”! The Vicar was truly being of service and coming from a place of love and understanding of the human need to feel the connection which is always there, but seems so very precious when we come together to grieve. We laughed, we cried and we celebrated at the best funeral I’ve ever been to.
When I first heard of Bob’s passing, I wrote this…
A friend of mine died in a tragic (and stupid) accident last week – I heard about it on Saturday morning. Thank goodness for this (3 Principles) understanding. Yes I was upset, yes I was sad and yes I was angry at him for leaving in such a way but behind all that I heard Dicken Bettinger’s wise words about the nature of the universal energy of which we are all part, and how it never ceases, just changes. So I know my friend is OK and my grieving has a peacefulness to it I have never experienced so profoundly before.