No one can be certain as to what goes on inside your head. Not your motives, fears, nor perspective. Try as we might to get close to other people, each of us still has our own filters in place to foolishly attempt to control how we seem to other people. The same is true with our attitudes at funerals: each of us tends to judge critically other people’s behavior, attendance and attitudes at funerals, while being forgiving toward ourselves.
A decision I’ve made is that I no longer will feel so responsible or attentive toward the “shoulds” of other people’s ideas about whether I should attend a funeral or viewing.
Only I know whether I appreciated, loved, or admired another person. It’s my choice to celebrate, observe his or her passing or think about someone who has died in the manner I choose. It doesn’t have to be taken as an insult to someone’s legacy if I observe a death differently than you think I ought to. The deceased has no opinion on the matter, in my opinion. I’m just one person, a person whose opinion doesn’t really signify much when weighed in the balance. I would rather someone spend time with family and friends looking at pictures, eating, telling stories, and sharing another person’s life than I would to have them obligated into the traditional viewing and funeral process.
I’ve grown so weary of being concerned about the “ought-to” factor with funerals. If I choose to not attend either a viewing or a funeral, it means that I’ve used my own personal criteria to come to this conclusion. Your “shoulds” and guilt-inducing words or behavior are your own responsibility. I’ll take your reasoned words into consideration if they are graciously tendered, but at the end of the day it is my life to do with as I wish, even if it involves me not participating appropriately in funerals.
Not that I am getting a traditional funeral, but I wouldn’t want someone to attend who felt apathetic or even resentful about me. Sometimes, people get upset that a certain dress code isn’t followed, flowers aren’t bought, thank-yous are forgotten, someone isn’t mentioned in the obituary or funeral program and so forth.
Don’t twist my words. I don’t mean to convey that I will be rude or inconsiderate. Quite the contrary. What I want to get across is that each of us can and should decide how and if we each will be involved with a specific person’s funeral. We should not take our participation lightly nor callously disregard the feelings of those we love. I’ve noted a lot of funeral-related anger and venom hidden in the veneer of social obligation and guilt. The people I admire don’t browbeat or use coercive words and guilt to push someone into attending or observing funeral services.
We should take a long moment to honestly evaluate just how willingly we have been involved in viewings or funerals in our lives when we shouldn’t have. I don’t want to ever hear “You really should go” (or “shouldn’t go,” either) anymore.
Keep in mind as you read this poorly-written exposition that I personally don’t “get” most funerals. Burial is strange to me. Viewings are strange to me. Not uncomfortable- just strange and alien. I don’t need to hear words of spiritual comfort. Each of us is tasked in our lives with our own spiritual guidance and we certainly have our own minds made up about where we go when we die. I would much rather be a part of gatherings of friends and family, sharing memories. The traditional rituals for me are devoid of the meaning so many other people seem to be able to derive from them.
(I keep forgetting to mention that funerals as we know them are a recent invention. They haven’t “always been done this way” as many mistakenly insist. It is folly to use a traditionalist argument in regards to viewings and funerals. )