When a loved one passes, the manner in which we honor and remember that loved one is moving away from traditional funeral proceedings. At first, I saw these new gatherings as very fitting exceptions to the rule, but this year, three out of four memorials in my ministry have followed this new trend. And while there are certainly financial reasons for this shift, I truly believe the primary reason is emotional health. Without exception, grieving families in my ministry all state that they do not want the remembrance to be a sad occasion. Referring to the deceased, "So-and-so wouldn't want that." So, what is this new trend?
We are all familiar with some variation on the traditional funeral consisting of a Visitation / Receiving of Friends, a Funeral / Celebration of Life Service, perhaps a Graveside Service also. Appropriately, it is a very somber, solemn occasion. The trend I am seeing now is a simple family-style gathering at the home, around food, sitting around chatting together, dressed in everyday casual attire and just hanging out. I think this is a gift we millennials are giving the rest of the world. There will sometimes be a tabletop with some portraits of the loved one, some items he or she collected or made, and some other memory-invoking objects - perhaps an urn. But the gist is that friends and family get together socially, as you would for a cookout, and support one another. No doubt, memories will be shared; but that is not the main point. Nor is it required. As a minister, I will offer a prayer at some point - a prayer for comfort, peace, and strength, thanking God for the assurances we have from His Word. And that's it.
I can see a lot of strengths with this new trend, and I am interested in hearing if you have seen it in your ministry. What variations have you seen families do? I look forward to reading your thoughts.
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.