Perhaps strange subject material for a blog post, but … I went to a funeral today.
It was a non-denominational / secular service – a cremation.
I’ve been to three other such funeral services in my lifetime: the rest have been religious services of some description.
I really like the secular services though. There’s something raw, honest, warm, and – to my mind – slightly more emotive about them … and I’ve worked out what it is.
Religious services offer comfort to mourners (particularly if they strongly believe in their chosen faith). They offer familiarity, set prayers, set rituals, structure, and a clearly defined order of service.
However, although they allow for a eulogy, you can’t really go ‘off piste’ at a religious funeral. You can offer respect… but within a proscribed framework. Certain prayers have to be said at certain times, some stories ‘aren’t quite right’ for a faith-based service, you have to dress in a manner befitting of a religious building/cemetery.
In short – you’re slightly restricted in what you can and can’t do.
During a secular service, there are no such constraints though. If your loved one’s wish was to arrive while a novelty Black Lace song plays, then that’s appropriate. No set prayers have to be said, the order of service isn’t strictly defined, there are few rituals, and – the main reason I warm to these services – the eulogy/eulogies can contain anything the mourners wish to say. If people are offended – tough. If the stories are a bit risque – too bad. In fact, these eulogies can often be bittersweet: they don’t just wax lyrical about ‘he/she was a wonderful person’, they also lay out that person’s faults and failings.
This makes the speeches more human, warm, real, and – as far as I’m concerned – genuine.
It’s unlikely this will be the type of speech you’ve heard before. It may even contain a few shocks and surprises – things you didn’t know about the person who’s passed away.
You may find the analogy wholly inappropriate. You may not even agree with the message behind it, but the point is, people are engaged by warm, genuine communication: something they’ve not heard before, but which resonates with them – something surprising, unusual, even a touch self-deprecating.
If they’ve heard it before, it seems like a template, or it’s set within strict confines, it doesn’t hit the spot in quite the same way. It ‘works’, but it feels like it’s been said/heard before.
A genuine story, well told, will always work well.