I teach on K220 'Death, dying and bereavement' and shared this reflection on my tutor group forum today for discussion and thought I'd pop it up here as my weekly offering.
"I went to the funeral of an elderly relative yesterday, my husband's grandmother who died at the grand old age of 98. I thought I'd note down a few of my observations. These need to be seen in the social context; my husband's family are evangelical Christians of an Anglican background. My in-laws are theologians, my mother in law (whose mother had died) is a well known preacher who used to do Thought for the Day on Radio 4.
It was a small grouping, mainly family. This reflects her age, she was the youngest of 10 children and the last to die (this was brought up during the talk about her life and resonated with me as I am the youngest of 8), her friends had died and she spent the last year or so in a care home.
The coffin being carried down the aisle and the order of service reminded me of a wedding service. One of the hymns was an old one based on Psalm 23 which my own mother had at her wedding and funeral.
There were no tears and lots of laughs. This reflects not only her age and that her death was long expected but also that evangelical funerals tend to be celebrations of end of the old life and the coming of the new.
I realised I had never been to a graveside burial; my family are cremated. I pondered this with my husband and suggested this might be a class thing as my family are working class and his are middle class and cremation is cheaper than burial. But he had a more intriguing reason in that my family were non-conformists (my parents were Baptists). I am a historian as well as a nurse and this makes sense as from the seventeenth century non-conformist were not allowed to be buried in Church of England graveyards and were given their own burial grounds. This separation of burial from church could mean it is easier for them to make the move to cremation, which was promoted in the nineteenth century. My own parents were cremated and their ashes scattered in a favourite river spot. I don't have any particular preference for what happens to my body, I have no particular urge for anyone to sit and mourn at my graveside so perhaps I will also find a place to be scattered in the wind.
Anyway, I thought I'd share my reflections. Feel free to share your experiences of funerals."