There’s a debate on the BBC News, sparked by an argument on The Archers, strangely enough, about whether children should attend funerals and at what age is it appropriate to start attending them.
I don’t know.
I have an odd view on funerals; you could get a bit Freudian with the following information and draw conclusions that may or may not have some basis in the depths of my psyche, but when it boils down to it, for me, funerals are pretty pointless.
I don’t do funerals. I don’t want to remember my friends by a group of people gathering round, moping and being grim. They give me know sense of ‘closure; I’m not going to stop missing a person just because there has been a – usually inappropriate – ceremony. Funerals are for the living, not for the dead, and as I have increasing contempt for the living, I”d rather not share my grief with a bunch of people I probably don’t like.
When I was six, my Granddad died and obviously I was very upset. The situation surrounding his funeral was bizarre as we didn’t know his funeral was taking place. By ‘we’, I mean me and my cousins. We were all herded into my Aunt Lou’s flat which was great fun; we played board games all day, had loads of jelly, generally misbehaved and had a great time. Two days afterwards, we were told that he’d been cremated. This devastated me as I was very close to our Granddad. I knew of funerals, but it never occurred to me or my cousins that this is what was really going on. My six year old brain went into a bit of a melt down as for most of the day we’d been playing a board game called ‘Haunted House’; I associated my Granddads funeral with us playing a game about moving dead people around a board. It struck me as massively inappropriate -even then – that this is what we were doing while my Granddad was being cremated – particularly with the ‘drop them down the chimney’ option in the game. It would have been less emotionally damaging to attend the funeral than to have it dropped on me like that.
One of the few funerals I have been to was the funeral of my partner, Gray. Well, I say that I went to it, but his parents actually hired security to keep me out. I was valiumed out of my skull and there was a nasty scene, but his folks were monumentally Catholic and I simply didn’t fit in… These days, I don’t do funerals. They have no real purpose for me. I have been to funerals – one memorable one where a cross dressing friend was cremated to the strains of Madonnas ‘Into The Groove’ after which we all sang David Bowies ‘Heroes’; and more conventional one where Pagan friends were buried in Christian ceremonies thanks to uncomprehending parents. Turning up doesn’t feel like a mark of respect, more a mark of duty. I prefer to remember my friends in my head and heart and respect their memories in other ways.
Maybe I just don’t like goodbyes and prefer to not see the finality of death; I still think about my departed friends, still miss them and sometimes still think “what would “X” friend do in this situation?”, but I don’t need a funeral to say goodbye.
I’ve strayed from the point a bit but I do believe that death is a part of life and fetishising it is as wrong as hiding it. Kids need to understand that life is not eternal. I don’t have kids so I don’t know how I’d handle it, but I’d sure as hell be more open about it than my folks were with me.
Me? When I die, just stick me in a hessian sack, chuck me in a hole and plant a tree on me…