Funeral Protocol Needed
Since 'Dead men tell no tales' it means some statements made at funerals, though they might be inappropriate, insensitive and inaccurate, cannot be challenged by the one who has departed this life. There was a recent high-profile funeral in which it was claimed that certain persons did not help or did not do enough for the deceased. Did the deceased tell those person(s) that? Since a dead man can tell no tales, then inaccurate statements might be made by people pretending to be talking in the name of and on behalf of the deceased.
The statement could be insensitive to the family members who are grieving and are not interested in any controversy. One should avoid offending the hurting family.
In addition, making such statements are inappropriate in the funeral. A funeral is primarily a worship service to give God thanks for the gift of the life of the deceased. It is a time to hear from God through the scriptures and songs words of comfort and challenge about the purpose of life and the goal of life in Jesus the Christ. Additionally, the service is to express solidarity with the family members who are pained by the death. It also provides an opportunity for all to examine their own mortality and what death means to us, and what adjustments we need to make because of our ultimate death.
Unfortunately, some persons who give tributes use it as an opportunity to advance their cause. So if the deceased died violently and the person giving the tribute believes in capital punishment, then he or she sees it as an opportunity to call for hanging even if the deceased was against capital punishment. Funerals are not the occasions nor the time for our activism.
Tributes to themselves
Some who give tributes talk more about themselves than the deceased. So they insist on speaking in order to have their 15 minutes of fame. So some of these persons do not wait to be asked by the family to give a tribute but offer and sometimes insist on giving a tribute. And these same persons who are lengthening the service will leave before the end and also do not attend the burial. As a rule, if one cannot, out of respect for the deceased, stay for the whole service then do not take on any leadership role, including paying a tribute.
Furthermore, persons need to know that the eulogy comes from a root Greek word which implies saying a good word. The eulogy is not to remember the wayward ways of the deceased. It is not about giving a balanced view with warts and all. It is to highlight the deceased good points. Therefore, even if a person has a criminal conviction, the one giving the tribute/eulogy might know a good side to the person and that should be said.
Buck stops with pastor
The funeral being a worship service means that the buck stops with the pastor in what is said and done in the service. It cannot be the family because the family might be pressured to add unnecessary elements to the programme and due to grief might not be in the best position to make decisions concerning the liturgy. The pastor can help the family by making the difficult decisions regarding what is to be included.
Even the planning of official funerals need help. When the prime minister gives a tribute it is on behalf of the nation, and we need no more than two others, namely, from the family and a close friend or co-worker. There could be some space for tributes to be printed in the programme and this would avoid having lengthy services that weary the mourners. There is no need to say everything about the person, nor is it necessary to say what was left undone by and for the person, but just highlight the main accomplishments and what the person meant to us.
Let the dead rest in peace!
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.