A story was related to me just this last week about a woman who was a mother, a wife, a sister, and a friend. This woman would often just look and listen to those around her. When asked what she was doing, she would reply, “I was just creating a memory!” I will use that line with my family in the future. When you think about it, memories are what continue to stay alive after death. The body gets removed, the funeral ends, the will gets read, and personal possessions get distributed. But nothing and nobody can take away our memories.
So what does the sharing of memories at a memorial funeral service do? First, it helps reestablish relationships. To share memories is to recognize old relationships, but the death that all are experiencing also works to change those relationships. The funeral service also reaffirms the uniqueness of our relationship with the deceased. It helps us to recognize what our own relationship with the deceased was, but it also reminds us that others identified with the deceased in their own way. During the funeral ceremony, we have a chance to realize the similarities and differences of those relationships.
Finally, memorial funeral services encourage us to look at the bigger picture. It is almost a universal experience that during funeral services we take a closer, more personal look at the meaning of life and meditate on its values.
As discussed previously, direct cremation and direct burial continue to become more common in the United States and Minnesota in particular. This means that the focus of the funeral needs to be redirected from the physical body to a new process of creating an environment for sharing memories. But as the focus of funeral ceremonies continues to evolve, we must continue to acknowledge that the purpose of the funeral is to help survivors cope with this loss by sharing these emotions through human interaction.
Funeral services are a great example of how we are stronger both individually and as a society when we stand together. Funeral services continue to evolve just as society does. But human emotions and needs remain constant. As caregivers, I would hope we never lose focus of this fact.