Editor’s Note: Now, for a change of pace, we’ll talk about the upside of funerals. They have been getting better, lately, in my experience, with fewer dead bodies (the Catholic tradition) and more “celebrations of life”.  The one described here sounds like something I’d like to have gone to, even though I didn’t know the guy who died.  /Linda LaScola, Editor


By Bob Ripley

Whenever I come home from a funeral, as I did yesterday, I remember why I like them.  It’s not the death.  Life is good. It ends. That’s sad.

What I like is the collective elevation of a life lived and all that that celebration entails.  For one thing, the celebration gets people together.  Sad souls who would never have taken a day out of their busy schedule and driven miles to be in the same place, will do it for a funeral.  It’s fine to be in touch via the Internet, but to see one another face to face is another thing altogether.  The son of the deceased told me at the reception yesterday that he’d just met someone he’d only known on social media.  He laughed at the epiphany that she was a real person.

Not only are people in one place for a funeral, they often sing.  Together.  I lament the loss of group singing.  We have music everywhere, mostly plugged into our ears, but we seldom sing together, except at funerals.

A funeral can also introduce us to language we might not otherwise hear.  A thoughtfully prepared homily, eulogy or liturgy can lift us by borrowing the wisdom, creativity and insight of others over the years. The well of quotations is deep if we take a moment to draw from it.

Words from Winnie the Pooh, perhaps:

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Or Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“Most people go to their graves, with their music still in them.”

You get the idea.  A good funeral leaves you with a thought you’d never had before.

And lastly, funerals elevate a life when it’s over.  Garrison Keillor remarked,

“They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.”

Here’s where yesterday’s funeral was so unique.  The passing of my friend Gary was expected.  He had cheated death many times over the years but not this time.  The anticipation of his demise gave people time to record a short video of what their friend, husband, dad or grandpa meant to them.  One of Gary’s sons took the clips and masterfully edited them together.  It was moving for the packed church and allowed so many to have a brief say in the service.  It was the best example of using the technology we have available to us.  It’s not hard for us to record a video on our smart phones and send it to someone who will string it together with others for a funeral.  It took some time and effort, yes, but it brought the funeral to life, so to speak.

So while some are choosing to eschew the formal memorial for whatever reason, I still like a funeral.  There’s much it can offer to those sad souls who might not otherwise see each other, sing together, hear a new thought or moving memory of a life lived.

And who knows?  There might be sandwiches at the reception.

***Editor’s Questions*** Been to any good funerals lately? If so, tell us about them – and/or how would you like your own funeral to go?


Bio:  Bob Ripley was a syndicated religion columnist, broadcaster, former preacher and author of Christian devotional material.  His book, which came out in October 2014 is titled Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion. Find out more about the book and his other writing here. This post is reposted with permission from his blog.

>>>>>>>Photo Credits:  By Hunefer –,, Public Domain, ; By Spictacular (talk · contribs) – Own work by the original uploader., Public Domain,

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tawreos

    If my wishes are followed, there won’t be a funeral. I don’t have much family left and most of the people I talk to no longer live close enough to come for a funeral. I plan to be cremated and have my ashes spread somewhere the water is violent like a waterfall or heavy surf. After I am gone my memorial will be every ocean, river, and stream in the world and those that wish to remember me can do so at any one of them. Of course, I will be dead for my funeral so I will have no control over what happens, so who knows what it will be.

  • Steven Watson

    I will see off my brother in a fortnight. It will be nothing like a good funeral. His “partner” is the worst kind of hypocritical christerloon. They have disrupted every other family occasion they were ever invited to and are already blowing this one up. When I buried my father, the wake was disrupted by drunken christer relatives causing actual fighting. YMMV but christerloons are nothing but trouble in my experience.

  • Mark in Ohio

    Group singing at a funeral? That’s a new one to me. Never saw anything I particularly liked at any funeral, and I’ll included the event described above in that list. If you get the preacher speaking, it’s just one of the canned sermons for the occasion. If you let other speak, it gets dominated by sanctimonious posturing. A good wake, maybe, but I’ve got no use for a formal funeral.

  • Jim Jones

    And for god’s sake no ministers or priests. None of them are worth a d_a_mn.

  • Jim Jones

    Never been to a ‘good’ funeral. All have been grim.

    OTOH, the sight of people on the “Highway of Heroes” in Canada welcoming a dead service person home for the last time is moving.

  • mason

    Bob, Thanks for sharing this thought provoking funeral.

    Our feelings about funerals are vastly different; I never met a funeral I liked. I experienced my first one at age five where my mother and three aunts went nuts when they closed my Grandfather’s casket and ran up to and flung themselves on the casket screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!!’ I’ve pretty much avoided funerals ever since. As a clergy I did one for a still born niece and had others take care of the duties.

    I did attend one funeral of a dear sweet booking agent lady I really cared for and after the service and all the lovely eulogies her son told me, “I wish they’d have told her these things while she was living.” Evident Keillor noticed this bad habit of society. “They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.”

    My Will states lowest cost cremation and no funeral, if my family and friends want to have a roast party, please do so.

    This caused me to say aloud, “What?” … “Not only are people in one place for a funeral, they often sing. Together. I lament the loss of group singing. We have music everywhere, mostly plugged into our ears, but we seldom sing together, except at funerals.” Wow, time to explore some new music, and get some new friends for sure Bob. Maybe pick up that guitar, or get one if you don’t have one. 🙂

    I do see a IMHO a very positive trend. THE LIVING FUNERAL … if a person knows death is soon, a chance to say loving things to the still living instead of about deceased, and sing songs. 🙂

  • Linda LaScola

    I once went to a funeral of a person I had never met – because I was asked to sing in the pick-up choir that was being put together for his afternoon funeral in the Episcopal church I was attending at the time.

    The deceased was the 3rd husband of the mother of a choir mate of mine. The others predeceased the widow as well – one in WWII. The mother, whom I also did not know, had gone to this church until she remarried and moved across country.

    It was a lovely service, like most in that church — with an emphasis on the person, not the religion. There were many poignant or funny stories about him, and his widow received the love and caring response that she needed. I shed a few tears and had several hearty laughs.

    I felt like I knew him by the time it was over and so experienced his loss in an odd, unexpected way.

  • carolyntclark

    For me and DH, hoping for a pain-free, peaceful exit, no fuss, immediate cremation, our ashes to be thrown on a windy day from a Maine mountain to land in many far-flung locations.
    For those interested in Death With Dignity options, FEN / “Final Exit Network” takes a different approach than the, too little, too late.approach, of most others.