It’s Your Funeral
Have you ever imagined your own funeral? What it looked like, where it was held, who came, who spoke and what they said about you.
If so, have you done anything about it?
Have you told anyone?
Have you recorded it anywhere?
Perhaps you take the position “I won’t be here, so I don’t care!”
Or are you like the gentleman who, tongue in cheek, said: “since I’m not going to die, I don’t need to think about it.”
The truth is none of us get out of here alive! We all know this is the fate of being human, yet somehow we also expect we will live forever.
If you belong to a faith-based community, then chances are you probably have a good idea of what your funeral will be like with its own rites and rituals. The two largest Christian groups in New Zealand, Catholic and Anglican, exemplify this. Similarly, your culture may determine the structure and rituals of your farewell as in a Maori Tangi.
New Zealand society is changing however and the way in which funerals are conducted is changing because of it. Some of the societal changes can be seen in the following statistics from the 2013 Census.
- 49% of the population affiliated with Christianity, down from 55% in 2006. This number has been declining since the 1990’s
- Although 49% affiliate with Christianity, regular church attendance is closer to 15%
- 42% of New Zealanders stated they have no religious affiliation
- 4% made no declaration, a number which has increased since the 1990’s.
Based on these figures at least half the population, or more given declining church attendance, don’t want a religious funeral service. If you belong to this group, then it is important that you give some thought to what you do want.
With NZ’s increasing secularism, funerals have become more varied across the why, how, where, when and who conducts them. The ceremony’s emphasis has shifted away from concern for the deceased’s immortal soul in the afterlife to celebrating their earthly life, reflecting on the things that made them THEM.
This was the case recently when I had the privilege of leading a funeral service for a friend whose husband died suddenly. He was not a religious man and his thoughts and beliefs on the hereafter weren’t known. The ceremony celebrated the man he was, the life he lived and the contribution he made to this world and other people’s lives.
Along with this change in emphasis and purpose, secular funerals are becoming more individualised, with farewells reflecting the person’s interests and personality. Family and friends are having greater input and involvement in the planning and participation of the ceremony. These changes extend into where funerals are being held. Most funeral homes have their own chapels nowadays but increasingly, funerals are being held in community halls, RSA’s, Bowling Clubs, outdoor venues and other places that have personal relevance. A friend of mine’s memorial service was held in her back garden amongst the trees and the birds which was very fitting.
This same friend, who knew she was dying, told me she wasn’t having a funeral. I gave her good reason to change her mind, namely, the funeral wasn’t for her but for those of us left to mourn her passing! We subsequently had a conversation about favourite pieces of music, literature etc. These were typed up and duly tucked away. The gem of the story is that after her death, those notes provided guidance which enabled her young adult daughter to lead her memorial service.
“The greater the involvement in the process, the better the outcome.
It is empowering and healing.”
Some families are choosing to involve themselves fully in the whole process from taking care of their loved one’s body, making or buying a kit-set casket, transportation and paperwork. If this appeals to you and you would like more information, visit Better Send Off
To read about a truly organic experience, visit Esquire.com
The cost of funerals together with financial constraints means some families are choosing to have cremation immediately after death followed by a memorial service later.
So, what do you want?
To those who take the stance, “I won’t be there, so I don’t care.” I would just say that this attitude puts a lot of responsibility onto your loved ones, who will want to do their best by you, at a difficult, stressful time. If you die suddenly for example, they will be shocked and distressed while having to make important decisions within a limited time frame. Sometimes these decisions, or omissions, can be a cause of further grief and life-long regret.
Having some idea of your preferences will help make their decision making that little bit easier and minimise collateral damage. It doesn’t have to be a plan down to the last detail, in fact, its preferable to leave room for the family to have their input as well.
Statistically, 5% of NZ’s plan their funeral compared to 15% of Australians.
At the very least, give some thought to this eventuality. Better still, start having these conversations with those closest to you. Being mindful that not everyone is comfortable with this kind of conversations, you can write your ideas down. If this is the case, let those closest to you know where it is stored so it can be easily accessed after your death. You don’t want them coming across it after the event and feeling remorseful about that. Alternatively, let a close friend know so they can be your voice on these matters after your death.
Either way, ‘it’s your funeral’.
The following links are relevant sites to help you make a start on these ideas.
© Claire Laurenson 2017
This blog is the author’s viewpoint and is not intended to replace professional medical advice.