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Friday, July 31, 2009

The Funeral Is for the Living

"We are gathered here," the preacher begins, "to honor the memory of the dearly departed." It seems like a reasonable beginning to a funeral service. Everyone there has expected this opening line. Some believe that is the only reason they have come. They would be wrong.

The dearly departed has done just that. He has departed. It doesn't matter how many people stand up to say something to the empty body or look up into the air and speak to the dead person. The dead are gone. They really couldn't care less that you are honoring their memory.

The dead are either in the presence of the Lord or in the worst place imaginable. Either way, they are not concerned with the things of this world. Nothing that the preacher says will change that. He, therefore, is not holding a funeral service for the dead but for the living.

This means that everything you wanted to do for someone should be done before they leave this earth. I have heard of sons buying expensive caskets for their mothers because they didn't do much for them while they were alive. An expensive casket isn't going to do anything for her when she is dead! Treat her right while she is living and you won't  have this guilt when she dies.

Funerals help people cope with the loss. They symbolically ask forgiveness of the dead if that is what they need. They affirm their love or friendships. They acknowledge the loss. It brings everyone to the realization that they will never see this person again on the earth. It is the ultimate closure.

The friends of the family use the opportunity to give comfort to the family. Often, it is said that the deceased is in a better place. That is not always true. People like to say it, though. How do you say anything else to those who are grieving?

I speak of the deceased faith if they had any. I speak of the faith that could be had by the family if the deceased had no faith. I speak of a trust in Jesus that will give them eternal life. I can't change the destination of the deceased. He has already arrived. I can speak to the family whose destination is still pending.

I ask everyone who will speak of the deceased to write out what they will say. I can read it for them if they get emotional during the deliverance of their speech. I can't do anything if it isn't written. It also helps them focus on what they want to say. It keeps them from rambling and it keeps them from being embarrassed. 

Never forget why you are at the next funeral you attend. You are there for the family. You are there for closure. You are there to finalize anything you needed to do. However, you are not there for the deceased. Funerals are for the living.

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