By: Derek Hobson
Have you ever been to a funeral and felt fulfilled? As if that person’s life was entirely wrapped up and everyone knew how they felt?
I haven’t and I don’t think most people have.
There’s no denying that “death” is a taboo in our society. It’s something people refrain from talking about and avoid altogether (if possible)… but is that how it should really be?
The other day, I was walking in a graveyard with a friend (because he was from out of town and had never seen Bruce Lee’s grave). During this time, we passed by several tombstones that had the name of someone buried and their dates alongside someone still alive with only one date. You know the graves I’m talking about; the ones where it reads “John Doe 1975-2011” and “Jane Doe 1978 – (blank).” At first, he thought that was a bit morbid, but the more we talked about the more we discovered that maybe we’re not doing funerals as they are intended.
More often than not, when I attend a funeral, it’s tragic. For seniors, most of us rationalize that “they lived a full life” but we still mourn. These may be people who provided tutelage and guidance, hospitality and boarding, they may have revolutionized the way we (whether as a nation or as an individual) think about certain topics. If you’re reflecting on their life, then you can see their gifts to humanity and your personal growth. So why do we mourn?
It was in thinking about why I mourn someone death that I discovered the reason. I felt unfulfilled. I felt that I didn’t tell them all the things I had wanted to. I felt that they never truly knew how much admiration I have for them. I felt that I never really had a chance to say “goodbye.”
That’s what it comes down to for me.
As a society, we don’t talk about death and so, when it comes to visiting our elders, much of the time, our siblings or parents will say, “This may be the last chance we have to see them.” And that’s not right. That’s making us go out of guilt and leaving this ominous cloud over our heads during the trip. We don’t get catharsis from that kind of a trip because if they’re that close to death, then people try even harder not to talk about it lest we all grow depressed. So what’s the solution?
Why not hold a funeral before they pass away?
I mean it.
Think about the events of a funeral. All your friends and family come out to “see you off” so to speak, well, wouldn’t you want to see that? Wouldn’t you want a time where it’s okay to talk about death and, if anything, it’ll feel like a celebration. It provides a window to talk about how these people have affected our lives and they’re present; they witness it; they hear it.
There is no “I never got to say goodbye” because it is a goodbye. And no, they may not die for another few years, but what does that matter? Then, they live out the rest of their life full of resolve. You, may even bump into them again before they pass away – which would be fantastic – but more than that, death is now out of the way; the conversation has already been had. You made your peace and so did they.
What if we’re doing funerals wrong.
If we’re celebrating a person’s life, why not do it while they’re still alive?