I found out this week that a friend from school has just died. It's tragic, she has a husband and young son and was not even 40. She was in my year throughout secondary school and we had quite a few lessons together. She was lovely, always laughing and having fun, I don't ever remember her being angry or getting cross. However I hadn't seen her for almost 20 years and we weren't that close. So, although the funeral is local to me I have decided not to go. It seems a bit of an odd thing to do, to go to a funeral of someone you were not that friendly with and haven't seen for 20 years. But another school friend (who I am in touch with) in the same position to me is going and I know a lot of people from our year are, who I also haven't seen for a long time. So part of me is wondering whether I should reconsider.
It has prompted me to think about why people go to funerals. Obviously for close family and friends there are many reasons; saying goodbye, having 'closure', from a religous perspective, a sense of duty, and so on. But at most funerals there seem to be a contingent of 'random extras' who either have not seen the person for a long time or hardly knew them. Do some people just 'like a good funeral'? And then when someone is well known or respected, people sometimes line the streets to watch the coffin pass by. I have never quite understood that either. Is it because people feel some kind of affinity with the person even though they didn't know them?
I think one reason people attend funerals is because they make us so aware of our own mortality and it's almost as if subconciously we can reassure ourselves about our own lives while mourning the loss of another. It makes one put things in perspective, but then do you need to attend the funeral to get that? I think sometimes people attend to 'be seen' too. If the whole village is going, then I'd better, or I'll be conspicious by my absence, that sort of thing. But I'm not sure that is right either?
Guilt, I think also plays a part, if people haven't seen the person for a while or haven't made an effort, and guilt too that they are still alive. Particularly when younger people die, I think there is a sense of 'thank goodness it wasn't me'. Or perhaps it is that sense of feeling thankful and in some cases (even in non-Christians) that sense of wanting to give thanks.
I know my friend who is going to the funeral of our schoolmate, wants to see old school friends and I think perhaps she feels bad about losing touch with people over the years. For me personally, I am not sure that is a good enough reason to go, I would feel like I was there under false pretences. And if I'm honest I'm not really sure I am that bothered about seeing them all anyway. I haven't seen most of them for 20 years because I haven't been that bothered before, so why now? would I really be interested to know what people are doing?
I'm not sure if this all sounds a bit callous? Perhaps I am overanalysing everything (as usual..) But the only reasons I can think of to go, seem to me the wrong ones. Most funerals do seem to be 'open season' unless it is actually stated 'family only'. Is there some kind of unwritten code about who can or should go to a funeral? With a wedding it's easy because you get an invite, but funerals tend to be at short notice and therefore people sort of spread the word so you never know whether you would be welcome or not... What is the usual funeral form?