Thursday, 21 September 2006

Death be not proud

Quite rightly yesterday it was Steve Irwin's daughter who dominated news reports of the Memorial Service for this very curious man who has captured the imagination of hjundreds of thousands of people.(see here).
I didn't see much of the coverage, but I did see moments of Russell Crowe, who was obviously moved. It was difficult to repel the thought, however, that he is a consumate actor. Not that he is not genuinely mourning Irwin, but it was a bit over the top.
As is so often the case children teach us how to mourn and the young Bindi Irwin rightly captured a sense of pride and tragedy. This was a girl who loved her dad in a way that we all want to love our fathers, and we are left feeling the great sadness of her loss. But there is nevertheless a sense of the indomitable spirit, that is both the right of every child and that is certainly an inheritance from that child's father.
I have thought much in the last few weeks about what funeral services have become.
I am sick and tired of being told by unthinking people that "We don't want this to be sad, we want it to be a celebration of their life."
There is something wrong, I suggest, about not being allowed to be sad at a funeral. In fact it is a denial of the grief that should be allowed to have full sway at such times.
I am not saying that we should not celebrate a person's life...we should do that too. But let's get this stuff into perspective.
And I can manage (quite often) to do two things at the same time!
I recently attended a funeral at which a man's golfing buddy told stories (for a very long time) about how much the deceased used to drink, and how his wife was a golf widow. My predominant feeling after 20 minutes or more of this was that this was more like a 21st or 60th than a funeral. There was a deep pall of embarassment as this wore on.
There is a place for genuine humour in eulogy, but as this wore on the pain on the widow's face became more and more evident. Was this really a "celebration"? It was more what the Yanks call a "roast", and quite inappropriate.
Thanks goodness the Irwins had the sense to curtail this for the actual funeral, and the Memorial was kept to a decent hour. One news commentator did make the observation that it became a singalong! I wonder what that means.
Nor do I quite understand who gets State funerals. I have nothing against Peter Brock, but I don't imagine that top flight scientists or even literary figures and musicians would get offered such as easily.
We did see that on both occasions (Brock and Irwin) there were political hangers-on from Little Johnny to Big Kym, and that probably explains the riddle of how these state funerals are offered. "twas ever so!!"


Trevor said...

it seems to me that Jesus, perhaps the manliest of men, was never ashamed to show his grief, his pain and his fear. Jesus didn't have a stiff upper lip.

I've been at funeral services (that were usually called celebrations and thanksgivings for the life of ...) where it seemed that to be anything other than jolly was to deny somehow that we trusted Jesus and what He said about resurrection.

Yet I feel grief at such times - I want to feel solemnity at the passing of a fellow human being, particularly one that I was fond of, or that I admired, or that I respected. I am sad that they are not there anymore. In the case of a young person who has died because of illness or an accident, the grief and the sense of unfairness amplifies the sadness. In the case of a young person who has taken their own life, the unfairness becomes a cry of "Why?".

Yes, I try to trust Jesus, to follow Him. But I still grieve at the loss of a friend or a close reletive.

stephen clark said...

I think we are on the same wavelength