Monday, May 1, 2017

Funerals are celebrations of life

The older you get, the more funerals you attend. It's a fundamental rule of this life. As you age, your friends, relatives and acquaintances reach the age of mortality, and funerals follow. Your time will come.

I attended another funeral Sunday, and I found it unusually uplifting and spiritually nourishing. The music and the liturgy of funerals usually are not — and should not be — mournful and despairing. Christian theology speaks of conquering death, and gerontologists speak of death as a phase of life. So it is appropriate that funerals are often called "celebrations of life."

As I sat in the balcony among the capacity crowd in the large church sanctuary, my mind turned to the stirring music from the organ and the carefully chosen readings from Scripture, as well as the praise and humorous eulogies offered by the decedent's grandchildren. I left the church not depressed but uplifted, fulfilled in a way that my heart needed.

After attending funerals that were like yesterday's — uplifting and positive — and others that were sad, mournful, despairing and even accusatory, I began thinking of my own funeral. I have become keenly aware as I read the obituary columns that the majority of the obits are for people younger than I. I have made a list of Scripture to be read and of hymns to be sung, including "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and "For All the Saints." The hymns should be sung by the congregation, not by a soloist, I decreed, because a funeral, like other worship, is a corporate experience in which all should participate.

 A well-done funeral is an uplifting spiritual experience, so it was only in partial sarcasm that I suggested years ago that someone start a new cable channel, The Funeral Channel, which would cover live and rerun funerals of celebrities, statesmen and others, funerals of people like Edward Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Princess Diana, Prince, Robin Williams, and all the others, perhaps even well-planned, uplifting funerals from Wilson, N.C.

It would beat most of what's on cable TV.

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