Some years ago I attended a Funerals Workshop. It was about devising an alternative rite of passage for those who feel that the conventional funeral does not always celebrate the life of the person who has gone, or meet the needs of those of us who mourn them. It was a practical and at the same time very moving experience.
We heard from an artist who painted coffins, a woman funeral director, and a celebrant from the British Humanist Association. We learned about the law, finance, the process of looking after the body, and alternatives for burial. We also did some creative craft work and some writing, and talked about how we felt as we approached the end of our lives. We ended with a special ceremony which we had planned ourselves. Far from being morbid or depressing, it proved to be a life enhancing experience.
Nevertheless, there was a moment when I felt some light relief would not come amiss. There was a noticeboard in the room where we ate our meals, and pinned onto this was a flier for a local singing group called HUMHOLLER'N'SING. I found this phrase echoing in my mind, and out of it came the following verses:
Hum, holler and sing
Or do 'most anything
But don't let me go without a party!
Shake, rattle and roll
Or let the church bell toll
But don't send me off without a party!
Toast, tipple and feast
It's true I'll be deceased
But it won't be too late to have a party!
Wake, revel or fight
Whatever you feel is right
But DON'T let me go without a party!
[© Judith Taylor 1998]
The workshop was run by Welfare State International in Ulverston, Cumbria, and if you are interested in their Rites of Passage Workshops you can read about them here, although it is too late for this autumn's programme: http://www.welfare-state.org/current/autumn.htm