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Grief and the holidays: The never ending story

      
Todd Van Beck's picture
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All my adult life, in fact even as a little kid, I knew funerals, ceremonies, rites, rituals, were terribly important.  As a child I did not understand one thing concerning the meaning behind rituals and ceremonies, but it did not make any difference at all, because I could feel the impact of the “happening,” and children do indeed love happenings.

Today, however, I have tried to lay down childish things, and have spent many years trying to pin down the meaning, the impact, the nuances, the panache, and psychology of what happens to people when they gather in a common cause such as a funeral.

Just over a week ago my wife and I held a Holiday Memorial Service for the entire community.  We had a large crowd.  A few of the staff were cynical, a few supportive, but then that’s life – is it not?

However, when the ritual of the Holiday Memorial Service took off, even the most cynical staff members (who had previously felt mighty put upon for being asked to work the service) were themselves moved by the magic, the metaphor, and the raw data of the ceremony.

As the ritual began, it was not the planning or the execution of the event which held the meaning – it was the behavior and response of the human beings who attended which held the meaning of the ritual, which is true of all rituals.

The impact of this type of ceremony is that even the slowest, dullest, and intellectually challenged person understood what was going on.  I believe this is one of the cardinal beauties of all rituals.  The simplest is the best.

I remember three gentlemen arriving, and they were, in my opinion, a rough bunch.  They were unshaven, all three had dental problems, their cloths were worn, they were socially awkward, and they seem ill at ease, until the ritual began.  Then they were all at high attention, they had tears streaming down their faces, and the looks on the faces told the universal truth that grief is grief, and pain is pain across the globe.

In fact the events of this one evening once again reaffirmed in my mind and soul the terribly important meaning of rituals and ceremonies; in fact I am of the thinking that communities can not actually survive with good mental health without rituals and ceremonies.

It seems to me the bedrock foundation of our grand, great and noble profession.

Anyway that is one old undertaker’s opinion.  TVB

Beautiful post, Todd

"...it was not the planning or the execution of the event which held the meaning - it was the behavior and response of the human beings who attended which held the meaning of the ritual."

That is profound, and so true, although I'm sure your hard work in the planning and execution had much to do with the response, Todd.

Thanks for posting this, and a Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Linda Budzinski