A loved one has passed on. He was very old and with every passing day he lost more physical capability. It was hard for him, and it was hard for us. He wanted to do more than he could, and we wanted him to be able to do everything he wanted.
When things like this happen, it’s a big deal, and so I’ve been wondering what I should write to sum up the experience. I’ve had so many different lines of thought going through my head. Should I share the peace I have felt, knowing that not only is there an after-life but we will all be together in it? Should I share what I have learned from being part of this great man’s family? Should I share thoughts about the great legacy he left behind? Unfortunately there is too much for one post. I have to pick and choose what I think will be the most valuable to those who read my blog. Remember that none of this is official doctrine from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (except for the link to one of their official sites) rather it is my perspective – the perspective of an active, orthodox mormon.
I have only been to mormon funerals so I can’t claim to know what the typical funeral is like. I have been told that they are really sad, but that is only hearsay. However, I have been to many LDS funerals and I would like to share with you what they are like.
LDS funerals are a lot like other funerals in many ways. Family’s get together. Tears are shed. Good times are remembered. And together we find a way to cope with the change in our lives. LDS funerals are traditionally held in our chapels. There is an opening and closing prayer and there are several talks given by family members and/or close friends, a few words are given from the presiding bishop, and there are one or two musical numbers. The family and friends will then move to the graveside where a dedicatory prayer is given. This is a prayer over the burial site. Dedicating it as a holy place. Pall bearers carry the closed casket to the grave and the funeral is pretty much over.
Throughout this whole process there are a few things that I understand to be different from traditional American funerals. For instance, we aren’t required to wear black. To us a funeral is a celebration rather than a mourning. We celebrate the person’s life and return to Heavenly Father. Instead of the traditional black garb we wear our best Sunday clothing in whatever colors we wish.
We laugh at our funerals as part of the healing process. I’m not talking about anything like the weird Asian laughing classes, no it’s not forced laughter, it’s just that telling jokes and laughing in remembrance is not a faux pas, rather remembering and laughing at funny little things is accepted and expected.
We don’t feel a bitter sadness. It is immensely comforting to know that this is not the last time you will see your loved one. Even at funerals for the young we tend to lean towards joy rather than bitterness. We don’t have the same concept of heaven that traditional Christians do. We believe that we go to a place where we can continue to learn and work when we die. That our purpose isn’t over. It’s more than just lounging around and playing harps, it’s learning more about God’s plan for us and teaching it to others.
I’m sure we don’t have the market cornered on happy funerals, but I’m not lying when I say that most LDS funerals are happy occasions. That’s not to say that we don’t experience the pang of loss, but it is softened by knowledge of Heavenly Father’s Plan. The funeral I just attended was that of a good man. A good man who left a strong legacy of hard work and faith. Knowing what we know, knowing that he is with his Heavenly Parents how can we not rejoice for him in spite of the sadness we feel that we won’t see him again in this life? God be with you until we meet again.