X-Message-Number: 3390
Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 22:38:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: SCI.CRYONICS The Funeral Part 1

Date sent:  5-NOV-1994 22:28:09 
                                 THE FUNERAL

Much has been written about the funeral, and there is currently a great deal
being written about it.  We shall try here to present some of the fundamental
ideas and issues related to the funeral as a rite in our present-day society.

The first issue discussed is the question "What is a funeral?"  There are many
definitions, and one will be examined more closely than others.  The funeral
will be examined as a process, or a series of highly related events.  The
funeral must be meeting some very important human needs, which is the focus of
the next session, i.e., functions and purposes.  Related to the idea of
function is the question of value.  A short section setting forth an idea on
how to determine the worth of a funeral is presented.  Then the social,
psychological, and theological functions of the funeral are briefly discussed.
 The funeral is not "the only way" to do things, as a brief discussion on
alternatives to the funeral indicates.  The final section presents some ideas
about what the future may hold regarding society and the viability of the

                         WHAT IS A FUNERAL?

As far removed from death as many of us seem to be, to ask "What is a
funeral?" is neither purely academic nor facetious.  That question has been
asked and answered millions of times over since time began.  It is not our
purpose here to chart the historical development of a definition.  But, it was
only in recent decades that a west-coast psychiatrist developed and published
a definition.  William M. Lamers, Jr., wrote:

     "A funeral is an organized, purposeful, time-limited, flexible,
     group-centered response to death."  (Lamers, W.M., Jr.  "Funerals
     Are Good for People--M.D.'s Included."  MEDICAL ECONOMICS, 46 
     June 23, 1969, p. 104-107)

His definition was generally acceptable and has been widely used and quoted. 
The funeral industry added a little modification to Lamer's definition and in
recent years the National Funeral Directors Association of the U.S. adopted
the following definition of a funeral:

     "The funeral is an organized, purposeful, time-limited, flexible,
     group-centered response to death; involving rites and ceremonies
     during some or all of which, the body of the deceased is present."

Let's examine a bit more closely the elements in the above definition.

When it states that the funeral is ORGANIZED, it is referring to the idea that
it is influenced by local and regional practices; that religion and religious
dogma makes a contribution; that the specific needs and wants of the family
influence it; and, that a funeral functionary, i.e., funeral director, will
also be involved.

The funeral has a PURPOSE, i.e., it is of the dead but for the living; it is
to confront, express and share a loss and separation; to act as a vehicle for
the expression of grief; and to dispose of a dead human body.

The funeral is TIME-LIMITED, i.e., it is not an open-ended event, it does have
a beginning and an end; it imposes a degree of emotional efficiency followed
by a mourning process.

The funeral is FLEXIBLE.  The service and events will be different according
to the age, sex, religion, and station of the deceased; it should be a product
of the unique identity of the deceased, also of the relationship of the
survivors to the deceased; and it must be able to accommodate any reasonable
form of expression.

The funeral is GROUP-CENTERED.  Life is not a private event and neither is
death.  The funeral reaffirms the deceased's relationship to the group of
which he/she was a part.  Funerals are a group activity, sharing is involved,
and therefore, a grief shared is a grief diminished.

The funeral is a RESPONSE TO DEATH, i.e., it responds to the fact of death and
does not avoid its reality; the response is immediate and not delayed; and all
cultures and peoples have established acceptable and meaningful responses to

The funeral has RITES AND CEREMONIES.  Rites and ceremonies give verbal and
nonverbal expressions to grief and provide safe and healthy means to express
anger, anxiety, aggression, and guilt, etc.  Religious ceremonials and
expressions establish man's relationship to his "gods"; and in some religious
groups, a way is provided that the living can assist the dead in their search
for immortality, e.g. "prayers for the dead."

The funeral is conducted WITH THE BODY PRESENT.  It is a means of focusing
emotions on the subject of the loss; to resolve by confrontation the
preoccupation with the image of the deceased; to provide limits to the
imagination in cases of long illness or accidental deaths which involve
distortion or disfiguration of the body of the deceased; and to deal with

Reality means WHAT IS.  It is normal to want to remember someone the way they
were, but what must first be resolved is the way they are now--which is dead. 
Until what is has been resolved, what was will never be remembered without

In light of what has been stated here, and in the multitude of other writings
on the funeral, it seems that there are many important dimensions and facets
of the funeral.  It appears that it cannot be adequately defined in a single
sentence.  It may be that it can only be defined by the individual in terms of
their experience in the phases and functions of their bereavement.

     The word funeral is derived from the Latin funeralis which means
     a torch-light procession.  The funeral appears to be the oldest
     of all processions.


It may be common to say a funeral is a funeral; and not be able to recognize
or differentiate the various component parts that usually fit together so

There are five basic events, each of which may be viewed as having its ow

[ I find this document rather amusing and would like to share it. There  
are more parts to it. Let me know if you think it is not amusing]

Jan (John) Coetzee

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