Should a funeral be happy?
Local funeral director Kevin Cobbold considers the style of modern funerals, and wonders which is the most appropriate.
A recent article in The Spectator was very critical of the ‘lightweight’ nature of many modern funerals. The author, Stewart Dakers, felt uncomfortable with the contemporary music, the chatter among the mourners and the lack of respectful silence, sacred songs and prayers. He was particularly scathing about eulogies which ‘reduce… three score years and ten to an aptitude for horticulture’.
What would Mr Dakers want instead? He would want the wondrous, ominous words of a religious funeral where hope of everlasting life is given. He believes that people should wear dark clothes and not those more suited to a ‘hen do’.
As a funeral director I have seen a steady but significant change in the tone and content of British funeral services over the past twenty years.
There used to be a ‘formula’ for funerals: there were set prayers, readings and a relatively narrow choice of hymns. The individuality of each funeral was reduced to the use of the name of the deceased and a short inclusion of a few details in the minister’s address to the congregation.
Nowadays, anything - within reason - goes. Possibly mainly due to the huge increase in services which take place at the crematorium, funerals have largely become a celebration of the person’s life. Lengthy tributes are read, laughter can abound about the idiosyncrasies of the deceased person and the avoidance of black attire is often welcomed. Secular music is prevalent and the only prayer might be occasionally a murmured Lord’s Prayer. Flowers can be in any shape or form and some would be quite shocking if they were to be brought anywhere near a church door!
While tears are still shed, they are mixed with smiles about fond memories. Children are included and they even sometimes manage to deliver their own sweet little poem about their Nanny or Grandad.
All of this is very soothing as nostalgia and long forgotten memories are brought to the fore.
The question is, are the bereaved missing out on anything that a fully religious funeral complete with a traditional liturgy of prayer and bible readings can provide?
While religious funerals might seem dour and morbid in contrast, their main message is that death is not the end, the best bit of our existence is yet to come. While being parted from your loved one is a time of great distress and grief, there is the promise of eternal life and it is promised to be one that is far better than the life lived on earth. If you listen carefully to those mumbled and often tearful prayers, there is hope and a feeling of belonging to something much larger than us.
Kevin and his wife, Ann, are dedicated lifelong Christians and are members of the Norwich Citadel Salvation Army. Kevin runs Kevin Cobbold Funeral Services, which is an independent and privately owned family company, based in Norwich. A description of the company is here
The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users.