N. Ance – Week Three – Description of a Ritual

Midsummer in 2016, we are getting ready to go to my grandmother’s funeral. It was a hot day, mid-eighties, and we all wore our funeral outfits (black) ad got ready to go early in the morning. We left and arrived at the funeral home to see everyone else there in similar clothing, black suits black dresses black shoes. The funeral home itself is very drab. It is just a white building with a sign out front and a parking lot, it is near the road and there are no other buildings around it. We get inside and it is very elegant on the inside with new carpeting and grand chandeliers. There are four rooms inside for four different processions, we are the only family there today, however. Inside the viewing room are around one hundred and fifty chairs, with about seventy people currently in the room. Everyone is very quiet and downtrodden, keeping to themselves, and if they do speak they do so only to the grieving. You can hear “My thoughts are with you” and “I am sorry for your loss” about every ten seconds. In the front of the room is a casket and a giant portrait, surrounded by it are flowers and pictures of my grandmother taken over many years. No music is played in the room; you can hear a pin drop. There is a specific range of reactions from sad to devastated, some people leave the room to cry and gather their emotions.

After everyone gathers at the funeral home, a priest gets up in front of the room to say a few words, some family members go up and tell stories of how she was a kind woman and they will never forget her. After people say their final words, everyone lines and touches the casket one last time before the funeral procession begins and she is taken to her final resting place. The casket is put in a hearse and driven to the cemetery, everyone drives behind the hearse in a line. The priest says a few more words as the casket is slowly taken down into the ground. Everyone stand around in a loose circle, quiet as can be, all with their heads down paying their respects. Once the priest is done and the dirt is placed people slowly leave without saying a word, and that’s it.

Funerals are a rite of passage, specifically closure. A rite of passing onto the afterlife if one believes in it and of passing in general; it is a closing of one’s life. Funerals not only are a closure of the dead, but offer closure to those who attend. It gives them a chance to pay their respects and sort of find peace with what has happened to their loved one. Really, funerals are more for the people who attend than the deceased. People can come together and be strengthened over a loss, they can find solidarity and peace. The priest at the funeral offered hope to people that the dead have gone to heaven and are in a better place, the touching of the casket is a symbolic last goodbye, the black attire of the guests is traditional and is symbolic of grieving. Even if someone does not believe in heaven and the afterlife, it serves as kind words to help the grieving and widowed.

One thought on “N. Ance – Week Three – Description of a Ritual

  1. To me, it seems like funerals are a good indication of what a society thinks of it’s dead. I have been to a few different funerals from a few different cultures in the last few years. At Jewish funerals, there seem to be a great importance on each attendee personally scooping some of the dirt onto the lowered casket. This seems to be the defining characteristic of a Jewish funeral and there isn’t as much importance placed on the speaking of family and friends which is obviously important at the funeral that you were attending. The most interesting funerals to me are the ones that place emphasis on having fun and celebrating life. I know that in a lot of Latin American cultures, funerals are seen as the best way to celebrate the life of the dead with a fiesta and expressions of love by family and friends. To look at funerals of elderly and see sad affairs doesn’t seem right to me. An old person has reached their stopping point, death means no more pain and suffering and the dead can be at peace. Oddly enough, a flashbulb memory I have from being a child was right before my great-grandma’s funeral, my siblings and I were watching the Emma Roberts show Unfabulous where her aunt died. In a premonition, her aunt came to her and told her to make her funeral a FUNeral for the whole family to make everyone feel better. Since watching that I can’t help but see funerals as a celebration of life and a time to celebrate all the things we can do in life before our time is up.

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