About Funerals & Celebration of Life
Funerals and celebrations-of-life have much in common yet they often appear very different. Each is a ceremony; a gathering of people who share a common loss. One is more rooted in tradition while the other is the result of recent changes in social values. Both serve to do three things:
Help the bereaved family and the community publicly acknowledge the death.
Support the grieving family by surrounding them with caring friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
Move the deceased from one social status to another.
Let's take a closer look at what most of us commonly see as traditional funerals.
It's not surprising that funerals have been around for a very long time. Currently, archaeologists cite a Neanderthal burial ritual, performed some 50,000 years ago, as the first known funeral. (If you'd like to know more about the history of funerals, you may like to visit the website of the National Museum of Funeral History.) Times have changed and for many decades, we've all come to know the traditional funeral. Composed of three activities: the visitation, the funeral service, and the committal service performed at the graveside.
The Visitation: Held prior to the funeral, often the night before but sometimes on the same day, the visitation (or viewing) is a time when people come to support the family and pay their respects to the deceased. This often involves stepping up to the casket to view the body either in the company of a member of the surviving family or on your own.
The Funeral Service: Commonly held in the funeral home or church, the traditional funeral service is led by an officiant of one kind or another - most commonly a pastor or the funeral director. This individual follows a very predictable funeral order of service, which includes the singing of hymns, invocations, Bible recitations, Scripture readings, and prayers led by the officiant.
The Committal Service: This takes place at the cemetery, after a slow and respectful automobile procession from the place where the funeral was held. Guests are asked to participate in many of those same activities seen in the funeral service. The committal service ends when the casketed remains are lowered into the ground and final prayers are said.
In her book, The Poisonwood Bible, author Barbara Kingsolver wrote, “To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.” We think this reflection is at the heart of a celebration-of-life.
While a funeral has more to do with the orderly and often spiritually-defined transition of the deceased from one social status to another, a celebration-of-life tells the story of the deceased. Celebrations-of-life are a time people come together more to celebrate the unique personality and achievements of the deceased than to merely witness or mark the change in their social status.
Celebrations-of-life are similar to memorial services, which can be described as a hybrid event; it combines the flexibility of a celebration-of-life with many of the activities of a traditional funeral order-of-service.
There's more room for creativity in a celebration-of-life than a funeral. Since celebrations-of-life are commonly held after the individual's physical remains have been cared for through burial or cremation, there is much more time available to plan the event. This allows you to make better decisions about how you'd like to celebrate the life of someone you dearly loved.
Are You Undecided? Turn to Us
We have years of experience listening, brainstorming, and advising families how they can best pay tribute to a beloved family member. We'll help you explore all funeral service options in detail, taking all the time you need.
In the book Chocolat, by Joanne Harris, you'll find this fundamental truth: “Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” This brings us right back around to the earliest funeral; even 50,000 years ago, human beings recognized and celebrated the value of living.
As funeral professionals, we help families carry on this ages-old, seemingly essential tradition of ceremonially-expressing our reverence for life. Let us do that for your family. Call our funeral home at (440) 942-0700 to speak with a member of our staff.
Than, Ken, "Neanderthal Burials Confirmed as Ancient Ritual", National Geographic, 2013.