Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Sad thoughts today

I have been to quite the most upsetting funeral today that I have ever attended.  It was a "community" or "public health" funeral, because, it seems that although the gentleman had family, no one was willing to take responsibility for the funeral arrangements.  Our minister provided the service at the church, and then there was a burial in the village cemetery.  It was at one of "my" churches, so I was asked to attend to support the funeral steward and the minister.

Image result for funeral coffin
(image from goodfuneralguide.co.uk)

We didn't really know what to expect, whether anyone would turn up, how it would pan out. It was unexpectedly well-attended as the family are an extensive local clan, but as large families sometimes are, it was rather a disjointed group of factions, and some went to the burial but not on to the pub afterwards, some went to the church and the pub but not the burial, and we believe that some were just going to come on later to the pub.

The heartbreaking part of the funeral for me was that the minister was not able to do the usual talk about the deceased - when and where he had been born, his life, his profession, his family, his hobbies and interests, his contributions, his legacy - because no one in the family had had a good word to say about him: perhaps they felt justified, because he seems to have had a troubled life and not been very kind to many people......but to leave the minister only able to say that the deceased had been a father, grandfather, partner and uncle was a bit of a challenge for our poor chap. He did very well, sharing some thoughts about the scripture passages, and sharing a poem about God's forgiveness, but it was a struggle for him.

From an outsider's point of view, the funeral varied from the more usual ones in that there was no order of service, only one hymn, no eulogy [as I have said], no limo behind the hearse. I understand that the grave will be very simple too. The family had organised flowers, and the coffin was just as most of the others I had seen recently.

This has opened my eyes to a different side of ministry and to how some families can react to death. All the funerals I have been to before have been for someone who has been much loved and will be missed, but this was very different, and I feel the need to reflect upon it for some time before I come to terms with it.  Life really makes you think sometimes, eh?


Patricia Ellingford said...

It is very sad but it does go on. When mum was admitted to the hospital for the second time within seven days last year the ward they put her on was a ladies ward and she was put next to a lady of similar age. Bless her she had been taken poorly and brought to Peterborough even though she was from Wisbech Way. As you do I got talking to her and you could see she was waiting and it turned out she was waiting for her family to come and visit - they did not ring they did not turn up and bless her she had no one to talk to but she seemed to take to me and I fetched some things for her. She had been given a nappy and needed to be changed but was so embarrassed to ask the Nurse. In the end I intervened and got the nurse to her and sorted her out a bit and made her more comfy. Unfortunately because everyone was busy and because she was quiet and timid everyone assumed she was okay. Whilst mum was on that ward I looked after her and chatted to her but her family never did come and mum was on that ward for a week. The last time I went in on that ward they had moved mum up to the heart ward but I still went to have a word with Joyce. Her family never did come and when I spoke to the Nurse she said that what I had done going up to my mum daily and then living with her at the hospital during her last days was very unusual in this day and age. But as I pointed out to her she was still mum and still needed caring for after all our mothers cared for us when we were small and vulnerable and it was our turn to do the same when they needed us the most. My family has a long tradition of members of the family sitting and being with unwell members and helping them pass peacefully. My brother could not do it or deal with it and so it fell to me to do the caring and I am so glad I did although sad I learnt so much through the experience and it has made me a far stronger person. My brother is also a lot closer as a result because I did what he could not deal with and made sure that she passed peacefully and in love. Family politics despite whether in the opinion of the family members should dissipate and play no part we have no right to judge how or why people live their lives the way they do its the way that it happens as what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another but all that is important is that we live our lives and simply be. Good comes out of all sorts of situations and peace well that is the icing on the cake.

All you can do is the best you can at that particular time.

Lightening the tone a little one of the funniest funerals I ever went to was my mum's younger sister's funeral. A lot of mum's family were lapsed Catholics, I was brought up C of E. My cousin therefore arranged for a non-conformist ceremony which my great aunt in her middle eighties by this time attended. For the best part it was a lovely service until theplaying of "Bat out of Hell" by Meatloaf as my aunt was a big Meatloaf fan and loved motorbikes. My Great aunt was horrified and I thought she was going to faint at one point. The rest of us saw the funny side but my cousin and my aunt locked horns on this one and things were never the same again but then they were very much the same temperament.

Fortunately we were able to have the same vicar as had buried my father for mum and so we had continuity and a lovely service on each occasion.
But it does make you wonder.

Take care

And thanks for being there.



Lyssa Medana said...

Funerals can bring out the worst in families. And speaking from experience, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING like a family feud for real nasty bitterness. Hugs. x

SusanM said...

My dad left when I was 5 and I was never allowed to see him. I found him when I was 19 and visited a few times as he lived 5 hours away from me. Two years later, a policeman came to my door to tell me that my father had been found lying dead in his flat. The flat looked as if it had been 'ransacked' and he had been dead for a week; neighbours had alerted the police. My dad had no siblings, his father had died a long time ago and he was estranged from his mother. Recently, he had split up from his partner. So I was asked to go to the mortuary and identify his body; very upsetting as you can imagine. Apparently, my father had been an alcoholic for many years and a post mortem found this to be the cause of his death at 47 years old.

There was no money to pay for the funeral as had none. I was a student and had very little savings. I found his mother's phone number and phoned her to let her know of her son's death. Fortunately, she offered to pay for a cremation (not a burial) but couldn't attend as she was very old and lived a long way away.

I was left with some very big decisions - where to scatter his ashes, what to say about him at the funeral (I really knew very little about him) and trying to arrange a funeral tea (which I paid for) for a small group of people I had never met. The circumstances of his death were very very sad and the funeral even sadder. From what I saw, my dad was a very quiet, gentle, caring man but a victim of his own unhappy upbringing. His father had also been an alcoholic and his mother had left him at a young age.

Morgan said...

Thank you for sharing your stories - people can be in this situation for a huge variety of reasons, it seems, and it is valuable to me to have your thoughts and comments on it. I appreciate your time in commenting, all of you x

veeknits19 said...

How very sad that they could not find a good word to say about the man. As for no limo behind the hearse, sometimes this a choice because of the cost. Vee x

Caz.P. said...

very interesting post and comments too. Definitely thought provoking.