This is not going to be about what you think it’s going to be about.
However, please read it anyway.
Many years ago, when we were still Christian and attending the Fundy Church From Hell, there was a large family with a new baby. If I remember correctly, the new baby was number nine, and I thought that was a massive number of children.
He was a little boy.
He died from SIDS when he was just a few weeks old.
It was tragic and awful and sad and horrible.
We went over to their house, I remember, and they had the baby there in the little casket that his father had made for him from a tool box.
That sounds awful and it was repeated around town and sounded even more awful the more it was repeated, but the reality wasn’t awful at all. It was actually quite beautiful. He had sanded it, spray painted it, and then padded the interior and lined it with velvet.
We met at their house for the funeral because nobody knew where the cemetery was. We went in a motorcade, but informally, not one of those formal funeral home things.
My nephew helped dig the grave. He was already there when we arrived, sweaty and dirty from digging.
We all stood around the grave site. The child’s father spoke, and I think maybe a couple of other men did. I can’t remember now, and certainly don’t remember what was said, although I know it included the requisite religious stuff.
But I remember how I felt.
It felt right.
It felt like love.
All the people who were there were people who wanted to be there. Nobody was paid to do anything. There were no somber-looking guys in black suits driving black limos. There was no smarmy preacher who’d been paid to say nice things.
Instead there was my nephew with his dirty jeans and his shovel.
We all cried, and we all laughed, and we were all friends supporting our friends in their sorrow.
Over the years, I have found myself defending that family’s choice more than once. There is nothing at all that I would agree with them about now when it comes to our worldview. I would not make a good dinner companion for any of them.
But on that day, at that time, we were friends and I was there for that reason alone.
And it all stayed with me, so much so that when our son died, that experience came flooding back to me. Dave already didn’t want to have a formal funeral, and certainly Nathan’s friends didn’t want one, so it wasn’t like I had to convince anyone. But that little baby’s funeral was so lovely and loving and memorable that I couldn’t help make the comparison.
We chose to have memorial celebrations instead of a funeral. We had them (more than one in three different cities in two states, a total of four) in bars, because that’s where Nate played and worked. Burial was not an issue because he was cremated and we put his ashes everywhere you can imagine, including both the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.
That doesn’t mean that a formal funeral is wrong or bad or not a good choice. It just means that doing it differently is not any of those things either.
And before I get asked the question I’ve been asked about eleventy-million times today, “Is that legal?” (to have a home burial), the answer is yes, it is.