Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Funeral for a Trend

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When did charities and funerals get in bed together? Why does every funeral disallow flowers these days and instead force it's attendees to give to charity? I guess I understand if the stiff in the box was a big philanthropist his/herself but otherwise, I just don't get it. I'm sure some people would tell me it's down to that ignorant and idiotic saying, "Flowers are pointless - they just take up space and die". Um yeah, just like the person who we're holding the funeral for, right? The irony of this train of thought is staggering - surely the entire point of funeral is to celebrate the life, however brief, of someone? Is a flower not a great symbol for the often startling brevity of life itself? Blooming and bright one minute, whithering towards the grave the next. The bright fullness of flowers at a funeral remind us of how wonderful life can, and hopefully was for the deceased, be; how we should take advantage of our time with each other more effectively, and how many happy memories we hopefully have with those passed on. The sheer satisfaction of looking at flowers and the emotional resonance of them can not be duplicated by passing on one's money to a disease-fighting charity (however worthy a cause this may be).
I suppose some funeral homes ask that there not be flowers. Perhaps this is true, though if this appears to be the case, I would start shopping around; when my dear grandmother died and we held her funeral in small town rural England, we weren't restricted at all despite the small size of the venue and surrounding garden. I'm so glad we had flowers at her funeral, it was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the service. After the ceremony, with it's unavoidable melancholy, we all ventured outside to look at the numerous bouquets people had sent. It was certainly far more heart-warming to look down and see a beautiful flower arrangement sent from my father from half-way around the world, then it would've been to a few weeks later (or even never?!) hear that he donated some money to a charity. How on earth would this had helped the bereaved? Surely if there's any time in life to be selfish, it is in the time of mourning; and it was certainl comforting and healthy for everyone at the funeral to end it on a cheerful and touching note. Looking at all the flowers on display, where they all came from, seeing right in front of us just how much affection there was from around the world for my grandmother was far more consoling than the abstract idea that someone might be clicking a "donate" button on their computer at that moment.
in any case, if one is adamant that there mustn't be flowers no matter what - what happened to "charity starts at home"? The cost of a funeral is often a huge burden on family members already dealing with great strain, surely it would be in everyone's better interest to donate proceeds directly to the family towards the cost of the service and burial/cremation? Why should some bureaucratic faceless organization get the money??
The whole things seems so impersonal to me, and I'm fairly sure no one gets any satisfaction from the transaction (save for the charity, of course). The mourning family are left with no symbols of support coming from far away relatives and friends, and those unable to attend the service are left without any memorable or tangible way to show much they care for the dearly departed.

I call for a stop to this madness. If people want to give to charity, they shall do so of their own volition; but a funeral is not a benefit. It's about celebrating the life of, and mourning the loss of, a loved one - and sending flowers as a way to send ones' regards and sympathy is a tradition not to be sniffed at. I for one will be having flowers at my parents' funerals and I surely hope that whomever is unlucky enough to be lumbered with dealing with my death does the same for me. Oriental lilies are my favorite, just in case you're stumped...

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Natalie said...

I completely agree with you there Chantal. A funeral is a time to celebrate the life that was lived and has passed on. Flowers are very much a part of it, the messages left, the thoughts and well wishes given. Hmm - maybe as a parting gesture - after the cremation/burial the priest should also "give thanks" to all those that donated to such 'n such a charity.. Really heart felt that is - not..

Mademoiselle Robot said...

I agree with you, and at the same time, I feel like flowers are as pointless as giving to charity. I think the main thing is to actually be at the funeral to say goodbye and try to cope with the loss/ come to a realisation. I have been thinking about the funeral "ritual" a lot recently as I just lost a friend, and I found flowers, charity, wearing a suit/black are just irrelevant comfort blankets for the living.

RROK Knuckles said...

A little less of the dear grandmother, Chantal.

Grandmothers are always senile and incontinent and their teeth clatter.