Friday, October 24, 2008

BOB RIEL: Funerals

1. Which is the best funeral you ever visited?

Two funerals, actually. My grandmother's funeral and then my wife's grandfather's. There was nothing extraordinary about either event, as they were both simple affairs. There was sadness, of course, in knowing that the person was gone, but in both cases there was joy in recognizing that we were there to celebrate a life well-lived and long-lived.

2. Which is the worst funeral you ever visited?

My niece's. She was not yet a year old and, although she was born with a dangerous condition, it appeared that she had survived the worst and was well on her way to normal health when tragedy struck. There was something unbelievably dreadful about seeing her tiny, tiny coffin and watching my sister wail in grief. Such a different experience from saying goodbye to a grandparent who lived into old age and died of natural causes.

3. Did you make any plans for your own funeral?

I have not. It still seems too abstract to think about. Though I am reminded of an episode of the U.S. television show "Frasier" in which the lead character worked on writing his own obituary as a self-actualizing exercise to help him think about how he wanted to live the rest of his life. I suppose planning one's own funeral could have much the same affect, in that it would force us to consider how we want our life to be celebrated.

4. What are your thoughts on burial in the soil versus cremation? Which is better? Which is better for you?

Like most of you, I am also an organ donor. And I always thought that cremation made the most sense, if only to save the land and expense of a burial plot. Although for families that have lived in the same geographical area for generations, there is something to be said for having a spot where people can go to memorialize and remember their close relatives.

5. And finally: Isn't it just odd that the word funeral starts with fun...? What are your thoughts on the very word? And what is the word for funeral in your language, if your first language isn't English?

I guess my only comment would be that I, also, want my funeral to be fun in the sense that people can celebrate our relationship and my life.

And Jen, thank you for researching the etymology of the word. It's appropriate that it means to come full circle. That's really the perfect meaning. I also love your comment about babies who are born into families near when another family member dies. That actually happened to us, as our son was born just two weeks after Lisa's grandfather passed away. We were sad that her grandfather never got to meet Brady, but it was actually a topic of conversation at the funeral - the fact that we would soon be welcoming a life into the world, showing that life comes full circle and goes on.

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