Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Funerals - more for the living than the dead?

Having seen a few funerals recently it got me thinking about the purpose of it all… Why all the elaborate ceremonies for the body of the deceased? Yes, we honour the people, what they have done, remember their good deeds etc. For sure! But many also believe that the soul has left for a better place, or heaven or whatever you call it depending on your religion. So what about the corporeal body? Many believe that it is simply a receptacle for the soul which is why some do not have any qualms about incinerating it when a person dies. Well, here is my view…

Firstly, I just think that it is natural for people to want to cling onto something tangible, something more tangible than a memory. Something they can touch. Even if you believe the soul has “moved on” we need an urn, or the ashes, or a casket, or a tombstone to help in the memory of a person. It helps emotionally as the person we knew, we always knew in the flesh, not as a spirit! So even if logically, we know that when we go to the gravesite there really is nothing much there but (sad to say) deteriorating flesh, it helps us in the mourning and grieving process.

Secondly, people tend to see themselves in the world that surrounds them. For example, a nice, sincere person is likely to think that others are nice and sincere as well (generally speaking of course). A crook would tend to be wary of others since he would think “if it is so easy for me to con others, I had better watch for con-artists myself”. But to return to my point, we tend to “see ourselves” in the dead person’s shoes so to speak. We probably tend to treat the dead with respect as that is how we ultimately wish to be treated ourselves when we go. We all feel comfortable in belonging to a civilised and cultured society where the dead are treated with due honour. The day we depart (no pun intended) from this practice is the day we begin to feel concerned about our body will be treated after death.

That is why I think funerals, if you really analysed it, is for us the living, rather than for our dearly departed.