Through the years particularly the last twenty or so, I’ve attended a whole lotta funerals, surely more than the average person. I’ve gone to services for family, friends, co-workers and even some people I never actually met! In fact I’ve been to so many funerals that my family jokingly refer to me as the “funeral guy.” I laugh with them but truth be told I don’t really find it that funny. The “pool or cable guy” I can understand, but the “funeral guy”? Please. It’s not like I enjoy going to funerals. I don’t, who does? Personally I’d be extremely happy if I never had to attend another funeral, except my own, but people pass away and respects must be paid.
I choose to attend funerals as a way of honoring the deceased and expressing love and respect for the family. I simply believe it’s the right thing to do. I go as an outward expression of shared grief and hope that my presence relays to the family that I care, that I feel their pain and that the deceased was important and will be missed.
On occasion I’ve attended the funeral of someone I didn’t really know or wasn’t close to. I know, you’re probably asking yourself why would anyone go to the funeral of someone they don’t know right? Well it’s usually because the deceased was related to a friend or someone I know or work with. I may have never met my coworkers father, but when he died I attended his fathers service all the same. In those cases I go to support my friends, to let them know I care about them and what they’re going through, again I believe it’s the right thing to do.
Sometimes I attend a funeral at the request of my dad. Because of his bad knees and reliance on a walker it is sometimes difficult for him to get around the church or cemetery, particularly if there are several steps or a hillside to navigate. In those cases I go as his representative. Last year I attended the funeral of one of his friends at Forest Lawn. After the service I approached the family to offer my father’s condolences and I was surprised by the warm reception I received when I mentioned his name. It was incredible! They shared some great stories and memories of my dad and his friendship with the deceased and truly appreciated my being there on his behalf.
Unless you’ve dealt with the loss of someone close to you and taken part in the business of death firsthand, you have no real idea what a family is going through and how much our support is appreciated. When I speak of the business of death I’m talking about all that’s involved in making all the arrangements for the funeral. The funeral industry is big business.
In their weakened condition the loved ones left behind, though still emotionally vulnerable and in the throes of grief, are forced to make decisions and deal with the likes of funeral homes directors hawking their caskets, holy cards, limos and other related internment services. Cemeteries peddling their plots, vaults, headstones and maintenance fees, not to mention the fees charged for the labor involved in the burial process. Hey someone’s got to dig that hole and fill it in later.
Then there are the flower shops who make a substantial part of their living on funeral flowers and casket covers, and let me tell you, not even the churches are free! Oh they may not have a set service charge, but a memorial donation is customary and expected, usually somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred dollars. Having worked in the flower shop business for nearly fifteen years, I can tell you, to the funeral industry “Death means money.” As the consultant at one of our local cemeteries used to say when I would be there deliver flowers “Yeah, business is good, real good, people are just dying to get in.”
I find it troubling to think that some people are so callous and caught up in their own life pursuits that they can’t take the time out of their busy schedules to pay their respects or offer their support. What could possible be more important than showing care and concern for those who are suffering the loss of a loved one. They could at least make the time to attend a least a part of the funeral service. If they’re unable to take time off from work to attend the funeral mass and/or burial they could at least come to the visitation or rosary the night before and partake in the grieving process and help them bring a sense of closure to the first phase of of learning to deal with death. What could be so terribly important that they can’t tear themselves away for even a little while? Selfish.
So for as long as I’m able I will continue to attend funerals and pay my respects to the dearly departed’s families. I am the “funeral guy” and proud of it. There are more of us out there, I even know a few personally who feel as I do and still believe that paying their respects is the right thing to do. I sometimes run into them at funerals. Perhaps there will even be a few at my own funeral, other than myself I mean…
Just a Thought…