I hadn't been close to this person for several years, but in the last few months of his life I was able to do him a service based on a rather strange set of mutual relationships. I was able to make some contacts and inquiries which he did not feel he could make without possibly causing upset.
It isn't often I attend funerals where I am not presiding or in some other vested role, and even less often that I am at funerals which deliberately eschew the traditionally religious. It isn't that I avoid such funerals so much as that the reality of my life makes explicitly religious funerals more common.
The rituals of dying and death are slowly evolving in our post-Christian society. I don't know that it is either good or bad, merely that it is. But I do think that the typical secularized funeral (in my admittedly limited experience) does not necessarily fulfill all the roles the rituals of death are intended to fulfill. Certainly the life of the deceased is remembered and honoured. Those attending to express solidarity with the bereaved. These are all to the good. But is death itself given its proper place, along with mortality? Is the relaity of death confronted or denied?
Of course, I've seen supposedly Christian funerals that seem to miss the mark on these points. Ritual is a complicated thing.
But this intellectual speculation is for another time. On Saturday, I will honour my friend, support his loved ones, and I will hope to acknowledge death without trying "to minimize this loss, or seek[ing] refuge from it in words alone."