Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Onwards to mortality

I've found discussions around The Good Funeral Guide, this blog, Don't Get Too Close to the Furnace, thoughts from Rupert and Claire, Jonathan and others - all very helpful. No, that's an understatement. I've been able to refine and develop my practice as a humanist minister by thinking through, sometimes feeling through, our discussions. I think I'm at a sort of plateau now. I'm sure I'll work on and find the need once again to re-define what I do in funerals, and how it relates to my life, but for now, I feel better balanced and calmer about it all. So it's a welcome plateau. This has, I think, helped me to take part in, be part of, better funerals than when I started out a couple of years ago. I know they're better, I can see and feel it, and they tell me so. Good. Thank you all, and thanks to others who've commented, and who have read but not commented. But no, please don't go, this isn't goodbye.

Here's a position. The things that many of us feel are not good about contemporary funerals: hurried, absent-minded crem ceremonies, horrible crems, the avoidance of death and the dead, the euphemism virus ("Only sleeping?" said Spike Milligan. "Who does he think he's kidding?"), a few callous or careless individuals, the feeling that the bereaved are sometimes skating over or moving round their grief rather than going through it, for which they may suffer later, etc etc. You'll have your own list. All this needs to improve. Jonathan said recently on GFG "It’s time to turn on the lights, that’s all. Hand the funeral back to its owners, the family and the community." Yes, we need big changes. De-professionalisation may be the ultimate goal. But.

I've droned on before that we have to take other people's realities and views as every bit as valid as ours, and work with those. We may be able to extend what they think they are capable of, and what they think a funeral is actually for. We shouldn't even try to effect a revolution in funeral practice in their own front rooms! I'm not a romantic revolutionary (at least, not any more)and I think there's a lot of hard and gradual work to do, because it involves changing cultural attitudes to our mortality and our eventual deaths. So I'm a boring social democrat in the death revolution, not a Trot.

Seems to me changes will come from the work of well-integrated providers that move through from first contact with the bereaved and the body to the end of a fulfilling funeral, providers that have the sensitivity to know how far to go and what these people, here and now, might be capable of. They will transmit a new virus - "look, you can do it, I'll just help where you need me, if at all." But that will also be part of a huge change in our culture, and it has of course started, or I wouldn't be writing this and you hordes out there (!) wouldn't be reading it.

I'm going to spend a little more time now, in this blog, with its actual title, "Mindfulness and Mortality," and probably a bit less on the funeral process itself. But please don't go, I think it does and will relate to the debate about funerals - and politics, and medicine, and inheritance law, and military service, and the hedonic cycle that is ruining our planet, and - so on. Thanks for reading so far. Sorry it's not as visually lively and amusing as so many blogs - I'm just working through ideas that seem important to me and I hope to you, rathher than writing a chirpy little e-diary, or selling something - and maybe I'll try not to write such big slabs of stuff in future! Anyway, see you (I hope) soon, right here. Bloody great, the internet, isn't it?


  1. So; is this waning, or a valedictory address?

  2. Neither a waning nor a valediction, dear Ark, just a little trimming of the sails, change of gear, and . . .well, please add your own transport-derived cliche. More later.

  3. GM, as one who labours over the little picture of obsequies and corpse care, I look forward to lifting up my eyes unto the bigger picture of What It's All About and related matters. I need a good dose of this. I think it will restore balance -- sanity, even.

  4. Thanks Charles - sanity comes extra, but I will try to hold on to a few shreds of it, thanks for your encouragement.I profess no academic or forensic analysis; I shall totter queasily along the thin line dividing (Un)Common Sense from opinionated ignorance, and no doubt slump occasionally onto the wrong side. But I do think that in contemplating WIAA and related matters, we do tie ourselves in unnecessarily complex knots, usually of a verbal kind, and we do hobble ourselves by our addiction to polarisation in discourse - of which, more anon, anon.

  5. Gloria

    I look forward to reading your thoughts.
    Keep 'em coming!