The prevalent nature of handling dead bodies and conducting funerals in the west is not to handle them at all, nor to view them.
Those who view dead bodies observe that they look different.
Funerals used to centre on the respectful treatment of a dead body.
Part of that focus is the loving respect people had for those who had died.
Another part of that focus centres those attending on their own mortality and considerations of what lies after death.
The acts of after death care and rituals naturally led to these focuses.

Now the treatment of the dead is outsourced to others, with those who love them kept at some distance.
Without that focus the other part of the focus on mortality and what happens after death also is weakened.
Those who view the situation through an existing faith will carry that into the funeral.
Those without a faith have little in the situation that will lead them to do anything else other than focus on their lives, through the remembrance of the life history of the one they have lost.
The celebration of a life motif associated with funerals is probably just a way of focusing on the the lives we all know and have rather than thinking beyond them.

From Thomas Lynch, co-author of The Good Funeral with Thomas G. Long.

A funeral is, by definition, what we do with the body. It is about the weight of the body, its gravitas, and the bearing of that weight by others as they carry the dead to the place of disposition. It is not a sing-a-long, a prayer meeting, a therapy session, or a memory exercise. It may include elements of all these things, but funerals are about bodies and movement.
Funerals are occasioned by a great human necessity, namely that the body of the deceased must be taken from among the living to a place among the dead. This movement of the corpse is the central and inescapable reality, the unavoidable fact at the center of all death rituals. We may accomplish it with a prayer, a psalm, a shout of rage, or somber silence. We may believe that we are carrying the dead to God, or we may walk to the place of farewell convinced that there is nothing beyond us and this world. That is a matter of custom, creed, and taste, but the fact that we must do this deed is not subject to whim or choice. We may do it in public or hidden from sight. We may do it in resignation, in despair, or in hope. But we will do it; we must do it. How odd, then, that we now so often hide this central event of the human death ritual, or simply hand the task to others. And, as a result, the central actor the body of the deceased has gone missing in action. Why?
Several explanations have been suggested.
Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch, The Good Funeral, Westminster John Knox Press, 2013, pgs. 94-95.

One thought on “The Funeral Is About The Body (via Thomas Long – The Good Funeral)

  1. Brian W Johnson says:

    Good article Gary.

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