See your:

Login | Register

Crystal Cathedral

Main Service Times: Main - 9:30 & 11:00 AM | Evening - 7:00 PM | Arabic - 1:15 PM


More About Care Ministry

Funeral Ahead

She sat down with a satisfied look on her face:  "My dad's funeral is all set.  He planned it himself three years ago, when he first got sick.  He picked the hymns, the Bible texts, the special solos, everything.  He even had the coffin chosen and paid for.  He told us he wanted the whole funeral to be very happy.  No tears.  No crying.  “Just happy I’m in heaven”, he’d instructed.  “Isn't that great!" Betty said.

I thought it was a horrible idea.  But it was an accomplished fact and could not, at this point, two days before the service, be sensitively reversed.  So I avoided the issue and inquired instead about how she felt to be saying farewell to her father.

A long pause.  Tears welled up in her eyes.  She couldn't talk.  More tears.  Finally, choking with emotion, she cried, "Ohhh, I'll miss him so much...."  Then more tears.

How could she be happy at the funeral?  I wondered.  How unfair and misguided of her father to put her in this unrealistic and utterly confusing dilemma.  Funerals cannot be happy times for most.

FUNERALS ARE FOR THE LIVING  Planning one's own funeral has some advantages for family and friends.  It does insure that the hymns, texts, and other parts of the service are relevant to the person who has died.  It sometimes prevents a common disappointment--a generic funeral service where nothing is truly personally important.

But locking surviving family members into a particular way of performing this very important transitional ritual not wise.  Equally wrong are those who, from their guilt, superstition, or misguided love, endeavor to carry the ceremony out in just the way the deceased ordered, regardless of how the survivors feel.  Doing it exactly as Dad prescribed may please his memory while sorely missing the needs of the surviving loved ones.

It may seem wise, courageous, and considerate to personally design the way one's friends and family manage and experience this most difficult event.  But the truth is that doing so is likely to be detrimental to their well-being.  It may be the opposite of what is best for them as they say farewell to their father.

When a death occurs, circumstances usually force family members to go through the discomfort and difficulty of making choices about things that are indisputably death oriented.  Reality forces unpleasant choices on them. But when they face the reality of death, the grieving process can begin.  The grim business of calling mortuaries, selecting caskets and purchasing grave sites, notifying relatives and friends, actually helps the mourning person. These important somber tasks should not be delegated to helpful friends or totally taken care of by the dying person.

By participating fully in the painful arrangements surrounding a death, the nearest of kin will better be able to get on with life again.  Close involvement as distressing as it can be cuts through some of the unreality that is always present when someone dies.  It undermines the mind's greatest desire: to deny that this irreversible thing actually took place.

Be Happy!  Another unfortunate angle in the example above is the father's instruction that his should be a happy funeral.  With rare exceptions, such expectations are totally inappropriate.  That anyone would prescribe such an unrealistic response to life's greatest problem suggests either total lack of personal feelings, or misguided Christian understanding.  Heaven is a happy place but losing a loved one no matter where they are going is usually a sad experience.

How the living respond is their personal business determined by their grief or lack of it.  Ordinarily, a loved father's death brings sorrow.  Sorrow, then, should be the mood, not forced and pretended happiness.  The sorrow may be seasoned with gratitude for a good life, with joy over pain ended, a heavenly destination achieved, and spiritual comforts realized.  There may be fond nostalgia; there may be laughter over amusing memories.  Other emotions, such as guilt, anger, or frustration, may surface as well.  But happiness on command can make everyone ill when they are really feeling dismal.

Since most of us are unable to believe in our personal mortality, we are not likely to face a lot of prearranged funerals.  Most folks avoid the thoughts and business of planning ahead for their final needs. That is just as well.  There are a lot of good reasons to avoid locking loved ones into something that may not fit.  It is better to let the grieving go through the uncomfortable process of doing what needs to be done and designing what will meet their needs in their sorrowing condition.

Join us

Join Us!We would like to invite you to connect with us on these social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube.

  • Support Your Church
  • Urgent Message
  • This Week at Crystal Cathedral
  • Roger Williams 2012
  • As seen on
    Hour of Power

Upcoming Events