Note: I’m only speaking from my limited personal experience, in other words, it is culture and family-specific.
The more (people) the better ?
I’m not a fan of formality and ceremonies such as graduations, weddings and funerals, which are essentially a form of social gathering. I say this without intending any disrespect to the ones that passed away. From my experience, they are occasions for small talk, especially in a wedding banquet, seated in a table surrounded by strangers (or even relatives). What is regarded by others as social significance is merely symbolic to me. In addition, they are full of unwritten social rules. I’m not saying that ceremonies are entirely meaningless. I attended my brother’s wedding because he is my closest and cherished family member but it doesn’t change the fact that the nature of a ceremony is symbolic. There is something else about weddings and funerals that doesn’t sit well with me and it has to do with the more (people) the better mentality. My brother kept his wedding simple without a banquet but where I come from, most families prefer a more elaborate traditional ceremony. They like to make a noise and they like big crowd. And my problem is, I hate crowd (and noise).
Show yourself!… But why?
Over the years, whenever my mum tells me of a wedding or funeral, I get a dreaded feeling especially if it involves relatives. If you have inquisitive relatives/friends, they expect you to show up and an explanation if you don’t. Relatives are tricky because while we are related by blood or marriage, not everyone has a close relationship with their relatives. How close do you have to be to attend (or not attend) a wedding or funeral? Is closeness determine by your personal relationship or blood ties? More confusingly and troublesomely, why are they so keen, if not persistent, on people showing up? It feels like a scene from a horror movie to me. “Come out! Show yourself!” they say. But why? The rationale for showing up has never been clear to me. Is my presence really that important to you (were we closer than I thought we were)? Is it to prove that I care, I love, I respect? Or does it have to do with the more the better mentality, not looking good and losing face?
Who is the funeral for?
I was about 17 when my grandfather passed away. Growing up, I wasn’t close to my grandparents hence I wasn’t upset to the point of devastation. I was studying in the UK then and didn’t want to make a trip back just for the funeral. Later on, I learnt from my mum that some of the relatives were somewhat displeased with my absence. Welcome to the adult world of family conflicts and bickering! Apparently, when it comes to funeral, it’s the thought that counts does not apply. When people say “show your respect”, they do want you to show your respect by making an appearance and show your face. They made it sound like a show. Who is the funeral for? Is it for the dead or the living? If it’s for the dead, why does it seem like the living has hijacked it and turn it into something else? And if it’s for the living, is it for the deceased’s family or the visitors/guests? Does the sight of visitors bring comfort to the deceased’s family? Does seeing the deceased bring comfort to the visitors? Personally, my reply to the last two questions are no, I don’t derive comfort from the sight of visitors and I don’t derive comfort from looking at the deceased but I know I’m by no means an indicator of what ordinary ‘normal’ people think and feel. The funerals I’ve attended seem devoid of meaning in the sense that people were more concerned about the ceremonial then remembering the deceased. All the things that were done were part of a ceremonial process to send the deceased off, the photograph at the front provided the only indication whose funeral it was. People talked gossips but nothing was done or said to celebrate or remember the life of the deceased. It was just a matter of following through with the ceremony. In this respect, there may exist religion and culture differences. I can’t help but think that a funeral isn’t about the ones who passed away, it’s about the living, the dead doesn’t care, it’s the living that is talking.
Yet again, the more (people) the better. It looks good (for who though?). My mum told me about a burial service she attended once and said it was rather dismal and deserted because only a few showed up. She said that as though it was a shame to be sent off by only a few while I was thinking why the hell do I need a parade to send me off? For the record, I’m asocial, introverted, autistic and doesn’t have many friends so if I die, there is a very high likelihood that no one will attend my funeral (if I have one but why do I even want one in the first place?). And I’m not going to be ashamed of that so don’t feel sad for me. Still, this isn’t the reason why I’m writing this post. I could decline to attend weddings and funerals because I was away and/or because I didn’t have a close relationship with that person but what if it’s someone I love and close to? To be continued…
Related post: Visitors by appointment only
Featured image from The Vatican Tapes, photo by Bonnie Osborne – © 2015 – Pantelion Films