Traditional Funeral or ‘Life
Celebration’: How modern attitudes to death rituals and a lean to
life celebration is changing how we face the inevitable
“Life is what happens to you
while you are busy making other plans.” --John Lennon
Have you created a ‘bucket
list’? Have you consciously thought about all the things you want
to do before you die? Urgh, no, you may say, that’s very distasteful!
Why? Because in our culture the “D” words are still rather taboo.
Yes, we are still somewhat
scared to openly talk about death and dying. Many (like my Grandma)
actually seem to think that talking about it might actually bring it on!
And so many refuse to even discuss the subject of our own mortality, even
though it is one thing that IS inevitable……that and taxes, of course!
Those who deal with a terminal
illness know all about talking about death and dying. Part of the
palliative care process is to support the terminally ill and their family
and ease them through the death process. But for those of us who
go about life thinking that death is far away on the horizon, talking about
our death is just a no-no!
The good news though is that
attitudes are changing and slowly we mere mortals are embracing the notion
of a life well-lived, and realigning our approach to end-of-life rituals
as part of this process.
The Internet is one medium
that can be attributed with opening new portals in how we prepare for dying.
The Internet now certainly allows people to access sensitive information
about death and funerals without ever having to discuss the subject out
aloud with anyone. More and more people are using the Internet to
research how to contend with a death, or even prepare the details for their
own final journey.
The notion of a “bucket list”
has become popularized in recent years in culture through media representations
that have made comedy out of the idea of planning a list of things to do
before you “kick the bucket”. If you so wish, there are even web
sites, bucketlist.org and bucketlist.net that enable you to create your
own interactive, online bucket list and share it with others.
This demonstrates how the
huge shift in social media and cultural values is helping to change our
attitude to talking about that “D” word. You may have perhaps noticed
that there is an attitudinal shift from the stoic, somber traditional funeral
ritual, to the new notion of having a “Life Celebration”, which is a more
joyous and upbeat affair that values the idea of being happy and celebrating
a life well-lived.
Whilst I can wholeheartedly
embrace this idea, which to me seems much more befitting as a tribute to
a loved one who has died, I do accept that a “life celebration” may not
be the ritual of choice when the circumstances of the death are due to
a life cut short in his or her prime!
Still it cannot be denied
that our death rituals are changing, and ‘tradition’ is becoming something
that is less popular. The personalization of funerals and death rituals
is creating whole new industries, like memorial gems, dove and butterfly
releases, and cremation rockets. That generation that we all hear
banded about these days, ‘The Baby Boomers’, are starting to etch their
mark on the death care industry in a grand scale. They don’t want
fuss, they don’t want somber occasions, they want to do something different
and they want it to be a celebration of how they have lived their lives.
Carpe Diem, which if my Latin
serves me right translates as “seize the day”, has become a motto for those
who wish to embrace the notion of celebrating life and living for each
day. Whatever your belief system, with the changing trends in culture,
it is highly likely that your choices for your own ‘life celebration’ will
be distinctly different from those of your grandparents. And you
are far more likely to be talking about your life with a view to how it
precedes your death, and sharing your expectations for your final passage
with family, friends and the World Wide Web!
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