Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Problem With Funerals

My first boo and I at age 4
Last week, I had to watch one of my oldest friends carry his father's coffin. His dad, a free-spirited musician, died of dementia at the age of 53, and there was no way I was going to miss being there for my friend even if he didn't need me. This was the first funeral of a father I attended after my own dad's and I thought I was doing really well. The boring service was neither entertaining nor particularly interesting, so my eyes kept dry. As the tears were coming once my friend, who was also my first boyfriend at the tender age of four, lifted that coffin, I realized death still touches me, but funerals don't. Despite having attended more funerals than baptisms, confirmations and weddings all combined, the functionality of them are rather questionable to me.

My friend's dad, Uli, had been a funny, passionate and super easy-going man who always made the impression to be so full of life it was impossible to imagine he would one day not be anymore. Instead of celebrating his countless achievements as a musician of works such as my first CD, ehm cassette (I'm older than I care to admit!), which I acquired as a perk of being his son's girlfriend in Kindergarten, a slow clarinet piece he composed was performed which evoked sadness and heartbreak. Unfortunately, that was anything but Uli, and in numerous sad song displays and the most boring preaching from a priest who clearly knew nothing about Uli his memory was distorted.

Why is it necessary to be sad one last time before putting a body in the ground? All the religious people around here will know the answer: in praying for the soul's forgiveness, Uli might be resurrected in an afterlife! The only problem with this is that, according to my own impression of the guy and my friend's confirmation, Uli wasn't all that religious. Now I don't need Uli's example to highlight how a series of prayers for a soul that was pretty unconcerned with their soul's performance after death makes no sense; my own father was spiritual, probably verging on atheist, but received his last sacrament. I don't think he cared, and I truly don't care either. If there is an afterlife, I'm sure my father got there because he was a good man, not because people sang sad songs at his funeral.

I realized that if I died and my Roman-Catholic religion would require me to be laid to rest with the help of a religious funeral my ghost would not enjoy that service. I'm not religious and I don't believe Peter is waiting for me at the gates of heaven. There probably is something past death but I doubt that a priest who I had never met, because I don't know any priests, could say a prayer that would make the afterlife more likely for me. It was then that I decided to write this piece to make sure my desires would be met that once I die my last memory with my family and friends would not be made in a church while people sob and pray for my soul.

Instead, I like the notion of celebrating life. At my funeral, I'd like them to play "Some Nights" by fun. or some Mumford & Sons because that's what I was all about, and not church canons. Also, please don't bring your clarinet or violin although I like instruments a lot. If there is live music at my funeral, I'd like to hear the banjo though. And the worst thing people could do at my funeral is show up in black although I do love black. If there really is an afterlife, people shouldn't be too upset I'm dead, so no need for sadness. The whole "I'll see you in the next life"-business is pretty unlikely, I get it, but I'd still like to think people would be happy for me when I die and go to hang out in heaven. In that sense, I reject all that religious chatter and sadness. What's up with that?

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