Funerals and reconciliation

January 13, 2012 at 9:31 am (Commentary, Funerals)

I suspect in many societies a funeral is a time for families, friends and even enemies to get together and mourn the passing of someone. From the little bit I know about Australian Aboriginals and Filipinos, the concept of a funeral and reconciliation is a strong motivating factor that brings people together, whether they be friends or enemies, at the time of another’s death.

Some funerals don’t always attract such general agreement, and the attendance of all interested parties is by no means always guaranteed.

A friend of mine, Tom, in my old PNG days, often said about people who had died whom he didn’t like: “as far as I’m concerned, he was a bastard when he was alive and he’s a bastard now he’s dead.” Tom certainly didn’t agree with the idea that you should never speak ill of the dead, but he being a pragmatic Scot probably explained his down-to-earth attitude.

In our country funerals are public events, not only  the invited may attend, but anyone else may come along. Of course, genuine mourners of a departed loved one are entitled to be concerned about who actually attends. The eulogies can be a point of concern. For the most part, those who speak at funerals carry the idea of never speaking ill of the dead to extremes, and what they say becomes mere platitudes, full of motherhood statements. My idea at a funeral is to send off the departed in a blaze of glory and truth, not necessarily by tipping a bucket on anyone unless it’s well and truly deserved.

Tom Hughes QC in his eulogy at the state memorial service for John Gorton certainly spoke well of the dead, but he gave a serve to the living in the person of Malcolm Fraser, and I think he was entitled to say what he thought, in the interests of the dead Gorton, for he came to praise Gorton and to bury him.

All of this reminds me of a rather little ludicrous series of events that came to my notice recently. A person, be he nameless, had a sister, from whom he had been estranged  for many years, and this sister’s husband died. In the interests of some real concern and reconciliation the said individual rang his sister to offer his condolences. You might be tempted to applaud him for this, but as things worked out, it would appear his sister didn’t take too kindly to his overture. Some days after a brother rang him questioning if he intended to go to the funeral, and make a speech, and informing him, that his sister and a niece were most concerned about this, and in so many words telling him to stay away. This, for him, only added insult to injury as he had no intention, given the feeling he knew his sister had for him, of going to the funeral. It should be stated here, that he did have a reputation for making quite notable and forthright eulogies at family funerals. It all goes to prove that funerals, families, and reconciliation don’t always go together.

Perhaps we should all follow the good book and:”Let the dead bury their dead.”


  1. Anonymous said,

    “notable and forthright” … hardly … the consensus is … “spurious and spiteful” … the ramblings of a regretful old fool …

  2. Peter Johnson said,

    …..more intrigue! You should most definitely get to work on that saga!

    – Additionally anonymous.

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