In memory of Terry Robare
Member of Many Hearts, One Spirit
Who Made Her Transition September 13, 2018
Despite having written previously about attending them (A Tale of Two Funerals, March 5, 2018), I’m not a big fan of funerals, especially as they are conducted in modern American society. I find them macabre and disturbing. I despise the trite comments: “He looks like he could just sit up and start talking to us”. No, he doesn’t. He looks dead. “The flowers are just lovely.” Does no one remember that the original purpose of flowers and candles by the coffin was to hide the scent of decay?
I scorn remarks which transmute the character of the deceased into saintly values. Few of us are without personality flaws, and being dead does not erase a lifetime of bad temperament, nor confer sainthood. I cringe when listening to a minister who is not just a stranger to me, but who often barely knew the deceased, turn from eulogizing to proselytizing. (“Hey! Think about it, people! The old so-and-so is lying here dead, and your time is coming! So, hie yourself back into the fold, pronto!”) I’ve even been heard to say that if anyone holds a funeral for me, I will most definitely come back and haunt them. I mean it, too.
No, for many reasons I despise funerals and can rarely be persuaded to attend one, except for the sake of speaking to a few of those who are grieving the most. Even then, my appearance at any funeral calling is brief. Open or closed, I frankly avoid the casket, contenting myself with signing the guestbook, examining photos, or watching the life-video the family has put together, perhaps hoping that from these I might glean in-depth knowledge of or at least a sense the essence of the life lived by the person who has passed.
Memorial services or celebrations of life–those are another matter. Those I attend gladly, and come away, if saddened, also refreshed and satisfied. I happily attend Talking Stick ceremonies (blog post December 10, 2017, Another Talking Stick) and wakes, where I can hear stories about the life of the deceased–little things that I might otherwise never have known. For the same reason, I am pleased to write eulogies: to share memories of the one who has passed.
That is, I think, the true essence of saying farewell to someone who has made their journey to the other side of the Veil: their story. The little memories of a lifetime, well-lived or otherwise, that comprise that person. The rounded viewpoint given to us about an individual when someone other than an immediate family member or minister speaks of them, for those individuals often tell stories only of the deceased’s legend. I want to see beyond the legend and the myth to the reality of the human being: flawed, wondrous, judgmental, open, accepting, confused, contradictory, thoughtful–complete.
The ancient Egyptians believed that if our names were forgotten, our souls ceased to exist, and therefore (although they preserved the body, believing it would reanimate in the afterlife) did all they could to ensure that their names would be spoken and remembered. They were, in a sense, correct, for our names are the heading at the top of our story. And perhaps that is why I despise modern funerals: for it is not the body of our loved one which needs to be remembered; it is their story.