Value of a Funeral



        For the celebration of Wilf Black’s life, the retired dentist’s ashes were placed in his 6-quart gardening basket along with dental instruments and journals, gardening tools and a few pieces of piano and flute music the talented amateur musician played. Honoring the request of Dr. Black, a man known for his sly sense of humor, the presiding Anglican priest read Psalm 81, “the dentist’s psalm,” including the line, “Open my mouth wide and I will fill it.”

        Those in attendance howled with laughter then and at other parts of the otherwise traditional Anglican service. “I think people were inspired by it and enjoyed it,” his widow AnnaBelle said of the celebration.

        Celebrations of life, or funerals, play an important role for those left behind by the more than200, 000 people who die each year in Canada.

        Said Brent Buchanan of Memories Chapel & Pre-Planning Centre of Brandon, Man., “It’s the final ceremony that says, “Hey you know what, this person has some value.” It acknowledges the value the deceased had by people attending a service, going to graveside, sending flowers, doing the things that people do.

        As well as acknowledging ends, funeral mark a beginning for the bereaved. Through the stories told about the deceased, they can acknowledge the death, put the person’s life into perspective and begin to heal, said John Saynor, a bereavement counselor for 15 years, creator of Genesis Bereavement Resources in Warkworth, Ont., a licensed funeral director and Anglican priest. “When there is no funeral, there is a gap in reality acceptance, because there is no event.” And he added, it can also inspire the bereaved to examine his or her spiritual values.

        A funeral as described by Suzanne Scott, executive director of the Funeral Service Association of Canada is any tribute or marking of the fact that someone lived on this earth. “It’s for the people left behind as a way of saying. “the deceased lived and loved and now they’re gone.”

        And they create connections between the living and dead, according to Karen Wright, an associate professor of nursing and education at the University of Saskatchewan and psychologist, who carries out research in loss and bereavement. Memories, such as Dr. Black’s music, when displayed at the service forge “continuing bonds,” Wright said. When people see such objects in the future, they are reminded of the deceased.

        Viewing the memento and attending funerals is especially important for children, she added. “Most children’s unresolved grief is around issues where they haven’t been allowed to participate in grief ceremonies.”

        But Mrs. Black gives a much more personal reason for holding the service: “I was very grateful to have been a part of Wilf’s life. I wanted to share that with the community, because it was a pleasure for a lot of people to share his life. I think that was what it was about.”




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Dated February 21, 2006

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