Today I attended a funeral.
It was for a longtime friend and neighbour of me and my mother. An extremely kind hearted lady that lived a generous life, and suffered far more than her fair share in her final years, especially in her final months. Its a cruel fate that is all to common in the least deserving of people.
But such is life.
I have attended a few funerals in my day. Some have been in churches, others in funeral homes. My very first was for my grandfather, back in 1998. Being I was 10 years old and quite close to him (as were many people. He had a very warm personality), I did cry. As did many other.
But at the same time, we had a lot of time to prepare. Though he walked into the hospital in the midst of a MAJOR heart attack (to the absolute shock of the staff on duty), and though he almost slipped away at least 3 different times over around 3 days, he continued to hold on. Until after he seen for the last time, the fifth of his 5 children. Missing in action due to lack of telephone service and variable construction work.
Though funerals were not a picnic at the best of times, they became a whole new ballgame after my total (but Silent) dismissal of religious faith in my teen years. Though all of the holidays based on religion were a bit awkward for me during this time, religious funerals were TERRIBLE. Not only did it mean following and doing as everyone else is doing (I do not want to let actions slip my atheism!), but it also meant dealing with a weird feeling of guilt. As if, I do not belong. And that I should feel bad about partaking in any refreshments offered afterward.
But I suppose that was just my young and immature mind. Though I didn’t believe persay, there were a few crumbs left that were complicating things.
Though I had never intended to openly come out as a non-believer (I prefer to keep such things to myself at all costs), the cat ended up being out of the bag in an instant. Before I even know it. All thanks to open facebook privacy settings, and a comment on a VERY offensive image (well, by Christian standards).
Though having the closet door ripped off out of nowhere made things interesting and awkward for awhile, it ended up turning into a blessing in disguise.
Though initially problematic, it eventually became the non-issue that it is. And not only that, some other family members either admitted to being not all that religious, or begun following their own paths (of which I may not necessarily agree with, but I am glad they are thinking. Though many would argue the need to push them towards reason, I am just happy that they are evaluating such a deep and important part of themselves). And it was great for me, because the weird feeling of awkwardness, non belonging and guilt at religious events went away.
By now, I have accepted that many people are followers of all kinds of different beliefs. And though they may not always be rational, I tend to find it best to let sleeping dogs lie. There was once a time when I looked down on others for not being rational (in terms of religion at least). But now, I tend to just follow a philosophy of live and let live. So long as the belief is not causing harm to them directly, so long as the belief does not influence them in a position of power, and so long as they do not push it on me or other’s, I let them be. Life is filled with all kinds of characters. It would be boring if they were all copies of me.
This more relaxed state of mind also had a bit of an influence on my time at funerals. Though today was the first overtly religious one I have attended in awhile.
The last I was at, was for a close family friend. It was less a funeral, then it was a celebration of the fellows life. There was not as many tears shed as there were laughs shared, as old friends and family members got up and shared their most cherished (and often hilarious) memories and stories chronicling their time shared with the man. Though it was not a typical funeral, it was none the less, enjoyable.
Though he and his family obviously had wanted a less serious send off than the standard, that was not the case today. It was just as serious (if not even MORE serious) then any other funeral I’ve been to.
One thing that has not really changed, is it still felt a bit awkward. Though I did not know if it was rude NOT to stand when told, I did (because everyone else was). I felt a bit awkward in the prayer sessions, but I didn’t pretend either (just looked around to see if anyone else was also not tipping their heads. Though I spotted 2 possibilities, I am not really sure).
And then there was the hilarity that ensued (at least in my mind) when trying to follow the hymn book.
You start up top, then to the next paragraph, then to the next paragraph . . . THEN back to the first paragraph, and 2ed line in every paragraph!
Rinse and repeat for 3ed line in every paragraph. . . THEN do not turn the page, but read the regular text at the bottom.
Its as irrational in design as the book its based on!
But that is par for the course, in such situations. Though its very easy for me to avoid religion in my typical day to day existence, one sometimes has to deal with the reality face to face.
Which brings me into the service. Though held in honer of many peoples special friend and relative, her name was not even mentioned for at least 5 minutes. That time filled with a prayer, and a message about the love of Jesus.
Though there was much more Jesus to be heard in the 40 minute service, we did hear heartfelt memories and stories of her various dealings with the church. Along with praise for her strongest skills, her kind and generous heart, and her bravery in the face of much hardship and pain.
But while I do believe that these words were told with the utmost kindness, they were woven far to tightly into the religious element.
All of the good she had done in her life for MANY different people and organizations, was on account to god. God calls the best home early. Though she was in pain and unable to continue in this plain, she has been restored to good health in heaven.
I have no doubts that the priest leading the service had as close a relationship to her as most others in the room. You can hear the caring in voices as they tell the stories, however silly or inconsequential, of those closest to them.
But none the less, its still a bit bothersome to hear the man crediting God for her deeds, or painting her life’s hardships as being positive.
Again, not my service, not my call. If if was her wishes to have such a service, than so be it.
But none the less, no matter what your faith, its important to remember exactly who is primarily responsible for your various strengths and achievements. YOU!
Don’t sell yourself (or anyone else) short, by attributing God. And most importantly, do not divert fate to god (“I will pray for you!”).
If you can not in any way help, fine. But do not pretend to help, by basically doing nothing but expel a few words.
I will now leave you with my take on a segment of Amazing Grace, the hymn that taught me how to read a hymn book.
I once was found, but now im lost.
Once seen, but now, im blind!