Saying Goodbye

a stone church front

The chapel at Presidio La Bahia, Texas
2013, T.L. Ryder

Yesterday we went to a funeral. It was a good funeral.  That might sound a bit odd, but really, there are good funerals and there are not so good funerals. I’ve been to a lot of funerals, so at this point I’m a bit of a funeral connoisseur.  Good funerals give people a safe place to mourn. The context of a good funeral is formal enough that people can come together in their grief and yet be assured that everyone is going to be enough in control of their emotions that they don’t overwhelm each other with sadness. The context is not so formal as to be meaningless and not allow for some individual expression.

This funeral was a bit stiff. It was a service in the form of a Protestant mass. Only one person besides the minister spoke during the service. The nature of the funeral fit the deceased gentleman very well. He had been an elder of the church for many years. In the foyer by the visitor’s book, the family had set up a wonderful collection of photographs from the man’s life. Pictures of him as a small child, pictures from his wedding, pictures from his later years.  It was a great homage to a long life well-lived.

Recently I’ve seen funeral announcements that deny that they’re funerals. “We are celebrating the life of. . .” and “We will not mourn, but celebrate. . .”. I think this is a bad trend. Whatever your religious beliefs are, someone dear to you has just left life as we currently know it. Even if you’re sure you’ll see them again, you have a natural human inclination to feel sad over their departure. We need ways to express our grief. Some people need more grieving time than others, but nobody needs to skip the process entirely, and we need ways to share our grief with others. We even sometimes grieve the loss of people we weren’t on good terms with, if for no other reason than that we are now out of chances to be reconciled with them in this life. Grief is important.  We all need space to say goodbye.

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3 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

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