Despite the title, this is not meant to be a morbid subject and has nothing to do with dying. Well, yes it does, but not in the way that you think. I am not thinking about dying or expecting it for the moment though, in my getting on in years, or better known as the winter period of one’s life, I guess it is not surprising that I have been wondering just who will come to my funeral.
Be honest, have you also not thought about this subject at some time or other. Of course you have. If you do not think about it now, just remember, it will be too late when it happens.
Funerals are strange events. It is almost by chance who turns up, because when you do die, it is usually a very short period before the funeral takes place and, unless you are someone famous like Kerry Packer and your death is splashed on the front page of the media and on radio and television, then news of one’s death is usually circulated by one on one contact. This is usually quite effective as it quickly and quietly spreads the word, alerting those told to the need to check the daily papers for details of when your friend, associate, work mate, colleague, relative or mere acquaintance will be buried i.e., when the funeral will take place.
Kerry Packer gets a mention above because I attended his public memorial service and that kind of fuelled my thinking on this subject. I had never met the man however because I happened to belong to the Sydney Male Choir, whose members were asked to join the Mass Choir being planned for the service, I found myself amongst many others, at the Opera House, with a cast of hundreds (I almost said “thousands” just for effect) to help say farewell to Kerry.
Somewhat bizarre you might say. I know I was a recruited attendee, as opposed to those who, for whatever reason or association with Kerry, wanted to attend, nevertheless, I was there, along with a cast of well known celebrities, film stars, people with high political office and many of the business elite of this city of Sydney. What a gathering. What a funeral service. This was definitely staged to bring on significant, meaningful, and public memories.
Around the same time, I attended a funeral service at St. Mary’s Cathedral for a Christian Brother who enjoyed wide public recognition for his services to education. It was packed. We had three people, including a Judge, give a Eulogy; the Cadet Corps from Waverly College provided a guard of honour; it was a very moving service, made more special by the presence of so many whose lives had been influenced by this one man,
This brings me back to my dilemma of “Who will come to my funeral?” I have just thought of another question “Who do I want to come to my funeral?” There are many that I would like to come and it would be interesting to listen to what they have to say, but it doesn’t work like that, at least, I don’t think so. I haven’t yet had the first hand experience.
Strangely, when you actually sound out the questions, you know the answer. “It doesn’t really matter.” Not because you will be dead, but because in the end, a funeral is about marking the fact, especially in the minds of those who are at your funeral, that you have left this world and it is their chance to talk about you openly and in their minds and hearts, say “Goodbye”.
Guess what? I have thought about another question: “How many people will come to my funeral?”
Why? This is truly the unknown element. In one’s lifetime, the parade of people with whom we come in contact can range from a small number, to many hundreds, even thousands. I know my life’s path has crossed many. I think about all the business cards that I have gathered over the years, both here at home and overseas. Living in Asia for almost a third of my life time did bring me into contact with many nationalities through business relationships.
As we age though, we leave the work force; we reduce out network of friends and acquaintances; we lose contact with so many, some of whom we will have had close personal relationships. Unfortunately, these people have often faded away through time and distance and when it comes to the occasion of your funeral; perhaps they will never hear about it, or have the opportunity to be there. I do not think it matters, yet it seems sad that it is this way.
Is there a reverse relationship between the number of people who attend a funeral and the age of the person dying? The older the person is, the smaller the number of people at the funeral, unless notoriety or fame accompanies the person who has died? The younger the person is, the greater the number. Where tragedy is involved, the expectation is that the attendance at the funeral will be far greater than would normally be expected, though again, the age factor will have a bearing on the numbers.
In the end, which is probably a poor choice of words considering the subject, wondering about these questions is linked to a concern that because a funeral tends to be an occasion where everyone is emotionally involved who attends, despite the relationship that might exist with the person who is being buried, perhaps raises one last question and this is “How much should you look to influence the occasion of your own funeral?”
They can be very sad affairs, though perhaps these days, there is an attempt to celebrate a person’s life more openly and this can often have a cathartic effect on those in attendance. Add to that humour and music, which strongly impacts on our emotions as well, funerals have become important events in our lives, irrespective of who attends or how many.
Whenever the word is spread for me, whoever does come, I hope they find they go away with a kind thought in their heart, a smile on their face and, hopefully, some good memories of our time together.