Friday, 19 March 2010

Musings after a Funeral

I went to the funeral of my friend and colleague on Wednesday. She was a well-thought-of person with a huge circle of friends, colleagues and neighbours, and the hall where the humanist service was held was packed.

As ever at funerals, mood and emotions leap about. Sorrow at the occasion is replaced for a moment with pleasure as someone you haven't seen in ages appears. Reminiscences mingle with talk of future plans. Overall, there is a sense of disbelief that someone so vital, and younger than yourself has passed away. A life well lived, but too soon ended.

We were exhorted by the celebrant to use the example and use the life left to us all to the best effect we could. That was a good message to take away from a bright afternoon by the sea, where the sun was warm on our backs, and where the new Spring was gathering pace all around us as we stood around the grave.

The last funerals I attended were in the Netherlands. There, it is the way to offer hopes of "strength" to to the bereaved. I think that is a wonderfully practical hope to offer, it acknowledges the hurt of loss, and offers hope of recovery in a neat package. That was the sentiment I expressed to the family. Then I stepped back into the bustle of life continuing in the little port of Anstruther, walking back to my car under a blue sky full of wheeling gulls.


  1. Heraclitus
    They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead;
    They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed;
    I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I
    Had tired the sun with talking, and sent him down the sky.

    And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
    A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
    Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
    For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
    -- William Johnson Cory

  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson defined success in a simple life well lived as:

    "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of
    intelligent people and affection of children; to learn the
    appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of
    false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in
    others; to leave the world a little bit better, whether by
    a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social
    condition; to know even one life has breathed easier
    because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

  3. I'm glad you were able to attend your friend's funeral and speak to the family. I've had to miss several since becoming sick, but after reading your description, I'm inspired and determined to try and go if another one takes place.

    I'm familiar with the Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation and have read it many times. This time, I'm struck by how he puts side-by-side winning the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. When I reflect on those I know who have done both, they are the people I think of as having lived well.