The changing face of Mourning

By Pat Whalley

I recently lost an old, dear friend, I am now seventy years old so find that I am attending more funerals than Christening these days, but this time the deceased was very near and dear.

Twenty years ago funeral congregations were a sea of black and everyone kept a black or navy outfit for these occasions.  The casket was usually present at the service, reminding us that we were all going to end up in an elegant, wooden box one day.

Nowadays many people have a different attitude and the occasion is now a celebration of life.  There is often an urn, surrounded by bright flowers and photos of the deceased at a happier time of life.

The difference is now not just in the congregation wearing brighter clothing but the whole attitude of the service has changed.

How many of us remember sitting through psalms, hymns and a sermon all centred round death, sin and forgiveness.  The Old Rugged Cross and Nearer my God to Thee, were typical hymns of choice.  Many services nowadays concentrate on the good life the deceased enjoyed, the way he or she had made an impact on the lives of others and left the world a better place for being in it.

The service I attended this week had All Things Bright and Beautiful and How Great Though Art, two exuberant hymns that were sang with gusto by all attendees.  The minister gave a very upbeat accounting of a life well lived and the soloist rendering of Amazing Grace, uplifted the hearts of everyone there.

This was really a celebration of life, a long, happy life with the last two years spent on the decent into dementia and a wish to leave this earth, her passing was truly a blessing and all of her friends and loving family were happy that she had passed on. Even though we mourned our loss it was indeed our loss, not hers.

The feeling must be very different when a child, or young adult is the one who goes.  This is a life that didn’t have a chance to be lived and most of us feel that the young person was cheated of the opportunity to experience the joy of living life to the full.  There can be no celebration of life, when that life is cut off before it has really had a chance to be lived.  How can his parents feel peace that their child has been taken?

Our faith is stretched, wondering why a precious young life has been cut off but, who are we to question our Holy Father’s plan.  We just have to believe that there is a plan for us all and that, surely, we will all meet again some day.

Whatever our faith has us believe, whether it be re-incarnation, souls in Paradise, choirs of Angels or Heaven being created here on earth, the majority of us believe that there is, indeed, some form of afterlife and that death is just a journey to another dimension.  Surely then a celebration of life is just waving farewell to someone embarking on a great adventure.

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