A teenage girl was getting ready to play the guitar and sing “Hallelujah” at her grandmother’s funeral. I asked her if she was nervous. “A little bit, once I start singing I will be OK.” Then she asked her Dad what she should say to the people after the funeral. I watched as her Dad “role played” with her. Extending his hand for a proper handshake, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “Thank you, my Grandma was funny, wasn’t she?” How did you know her?” It was so genuine and effortless to see Father and Daughter interacting in such a loving, teaching moment.
A biological father and a step-father had not spoken in a decade or more. Their 21-year-old son was a victim of a tragic, senseless shooting. The two families were at odds while making the funeral arrangements. They did not want to be in the same room together. They requested that I meet with them separately at each of their homes to talk about their son’s Celebration of Life. Amidst the deep grief was shock, animosity and different religious beliefs. It was important to make sure each family’s memories were shared respectfully and without opposition. Also, that their differing faiths were acknowledged with prayers and scriptures. After the service in the Reception area, I witnessed both Dads give each other a big bear hug with tears streaming from their eyes. Forgiveness while grieving, how powerful! The Celebration of Life had given them an avenue to come together in love and forgiveness.
A young man arrived an hour early to the funeral for his friend who shot himself. He took a seat alone and his grief was palpable. I watched as a grief counselor (who had introduced herself to me earlier) went over to console him. It was very clear to me, that he did not want to engage with anyone, he needed to just “Be”. Then, she handed him her business card. That seemed so very inappropriate!
I usually arrive about 45 minutes to an hour before the service begins. This allows time for setup, sound checks and meeting extended family members. It is interesting to observe what happens before and after a funeral.
Your presence at the funeral matters more than you may ever realize. If you did not know the deceased personally, being there in support of a family member means so much. Coming together in community is the beginning of hope and healing.
Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to "Think Outside the Coffin®" when planning a Fabulous Farewell.