Rituals at the end of life


In the past week my brother in law’s dad died after 6 weeks in hospital and last night I got the news that my friend’s dad had died of a heart-attack while tending his roses. Neither man was young, but both were positive, energetic people who enjoyed living. One had a strong Catholic faith, one was agostic. The impact on the families of course is just the same: disbelief that life seems to carry on normally; numbness; a need to mark the moment; a feeling that something in the fabric of the world is changed.

That’s what I find most difficult about death myself. It’s so personal. The world really has changed and yet nothing has changed at all. The world is heartless, death is its norm after all.

Ritual at a time like this truly helps us to mark a death with the importance we feel it deserves. It is right to wail and cry, it’s ok to dress in black and sing sombre songs. It’s also ok to have a massive party and tell all the funny stories about the dead you know they’d love to tell if they were there themselves.

Our society is sadly lacking in formal ritual – informal yes but thats a different blog post – but we can’t and don’t want to avoid it when it comes to death. Because it’s so much bigger than us our rituals help us to somehow approach the death and life of those we love. And Christian rituals carry within them the hope of something even more – a different kind of life, a hope of something beyond a world that seems not to care that the brightest of sparks has left.

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