There is a danger that funerals become just a celebration of life over and above an important rite of passage which includes the sadness of loss. So it is important that non-religious, more individual funerals have beauty and ritual to give them depth. This is what the churches do so well. Theatre director James Roose Evans wrote in Creating Ritual “all great faiths have precise rituals for the dying and the dead – what rituals do we have to offer to those of no specific faith or tradition? A ritual is a journey of the heart, which should lead us into the inner realm of the psyche, and ultimately, into that of the soul, the ground of our being. Rituals, if performed with passion and devotion, will enhance our desire and strengthen our capacity to live.”
I couldn’t agree more, and rituals can be made around the time of death, for example caring for someone who has died. Some women came to wash and sing to their friend who had died, another group to bind the body in white cotton; You can hold a vigil – perhaps all night, family and friends coming together to tell stories, perhaps decorating the coffin, or during the service, with candle rituals, the laying of rosemary and symbolic flowers, singing together. It is about working creatively towards rituals that reflect the culture and beliefs of the person who has died and their community, to give meaning and depth to each funeral. In this way, the modern funeral will keep a sense of the sacred, of being part of a larger fabric of life and death, holding universal meaning – truly a funeral with heart and soul.