General Question

oasis's avatar

Why do we celebrate someones life when they are dead?

Asked by oasis (960 points ) December 7th, 2008

Why wait until then?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

21 Answers

IBERnineD's avatar

Good Point, maybe it is simply due to the syndrome “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” I had a favorite uncle, and he was always very lively and fun. Before he died he said he wanted to have a memorial, not a funeral because “funerals are too damn sad.” So, we all went to Maine, where we celebrated the person we knew and loved, then had a HUGE lobster feast. No one wore black. Uncle Joe would have loved it.

overgrownbat's avatar

Isn’t that what birthdays are all about?

toyhyena's avatar

I think those two above me nailed it on the head. I honestly love the fact that your uncle would’ve preferred a celebration, that’s really touching.

wildflower's avatar

Because once they’re gone, all you have is the past and the memories, so you emphasize those in a celebration of what was – and thereby lessen the feeling of loss too.

Lightlyseared's avatar

It’s part of the mourning process.

bythebay's avatar

In our family we all celebrate each other every chance we get. We revel in our success and laugh at our failures. We enjoy what is unique about each of us. And in the end, when someone passes, we celebrate the laughter & happiness and joy they brought to this earth and mourn the fact that we’ll miss them.

srmorgan's avatar

When did a funeral become a celebration?

My wife is a Catholic and at her mother’s death, we went to church where a Requiem Mass was said for the repose of her soul. The Mass gathers the family together and like many families spending time together, we joke about old times and when Mom did what and when Dad did this or that, it is simply a way to find community and to ease overwhelming feelings of grief and sorrow.

My father died last November (2007) and the Rabbi was very funny as he spoke about the neighboorhoods where he and my father grew up and then one of my father’s friends gave a eulogy. He is a retired Lutheran Minister. But in both cases we start a period of mourning. We state that we already miss the deceased and we remember his or her accomplishments, good points, maybe even his or her flaws.

But a religious ritual is not a celebration. That is why we have been calling it a funeral for centuries and centuries.

SRM

mangeons's avatar

Because you celebrate the life that they had. I agree with IBE on the “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till its gone” saying.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I think a religious ritual is a formal celebration that has been “institutionalized.” So much about religion is like the game of “Telephone.” Things we do in religious context have lost their original meaning over time, and have become subject to the interpretation that authority puts on them.

I can remember going to confession as a kid for laughing or turning around in church. We were not supposed to look to the back, but to keep our eyes focused on the crucifix. Could you imagine that passing for something the priest would want to hear about today? That’s a minor example, but things like funeral rituals give comfort to people because they are predictable.

oasis's avatar

My line of thought is why not tell these people when they are living,a surprise party or family celebration.

laureth's avatar

You can’t celebrate the whole thing until it’s over.

Judi's avatar

Don’t we celebrate peoples lives while they’re living at birthday parties, awards ceremonies, roasts, and ballet recitals?

Judi's avatar

@srmorgan;
I would disagree with you about religious rituals not being a celebration. I see a funeral as being a celebration of the promise of the Resurrection. We “Celebrate” communion. Read the words of the ancient liturgies and they are mostly celebratory. It is us who have made them grim at times, but it’s not the words. The melody and the organ music may sound a bit haunting, that’s what we’ve done to it, but listen to the words of hope.

rossi_bear's avatar

everyday and time you think of that person has passed they are there with you, it makes them happy when you celebrate and it hoonor them and lets them know that they are not forgotten even though they are not with us in the physical since. they are always with us in spirit.

augustlan's avatar

Funerals are not for the deceased. They are for the living. Whatever process makes it easier for people to say goodbye to that particular loved one is what should be done. We had a funeral for my Grandmother when she died, and then we all got on a huge bus and drove 4 hours to her favorite restaurant and had a good old fashioned wake. We laughed, cried and sang. It was beautiful.

susanc's avatar

The potential downside of the “celebration of life” is that people get the impression that they aren’t allowed to be sad. Pretty bogus when someone worth celebrating has just croaked.

nebule's avatar

@laureth I see your point… We as a family quite frequently throw birthday parties for people in whihc people are asked to get up and say lovely things about the specific person and we use it a celebration of their life… and i know my uncle is planning on doing a kind of “this is your life” red book thing for my dad at some point. He’ll be 60 next year…

Maybe…. it should be law that we are all thrown a party at a certain age (to celebrate what wonderful people we are…how much we’ve achieved…etc)...or obviously if you know you are going to die…before the sad event… obviously the tragedy would be for people in freak accidents and such like….but one can’t change these things…

However, death is always going to be incredibly sad and i agree with augustian and lightlyseared in that i believe we really need to be sad when someone dies. But it is a time to look back and celebrate their life from the perspective that its such a sad thing that they are now not with us…

wundayatta's avatar

I suspect that the important question here is the “why wait until then” part. I do, however, want to say a few things about the “celebration of life” after death part.

Why “Celebrate” After a Person Has Passed Away?

When we gather while mourning, it is an extremely painful time, and more so for those who knew the deceased the best. I think that while you are thinking of that person, it is natural to want to tell stories about them.

At funerals of people close to me, I wanted to hear stories, and I learned things I didn’t know before. It felt good to learn more about the complete person. Things that are never shared before death, but can no longer embarrass the person can come out.

I’ve told stories about my relationship to the deceased to people close to that person. I usually put a lot of effort into remembering, and then trying to speak with as much visual detail as possible. People often tell me how much this means to them. Condolences are a dime a dozen. Real remembrance is much more costly.

Why Wait Until Then?

It’s difficult to organize these things before you’ve gone. Sure there are birthday parties, but, while you are the person of the day, it doesn’t have to be, and often isn’t about your life. Telling stories about an indivual’s life takes special effort by those organizing the event.

My parents have an event around their anniversary where every five years or so, they gather all their friends and family together some place nice. There is always an “entertainment” and these have included skits, story-telling (about them), and a roast, among other things.

I guess it seems egotistical or desperate when you organize an event and ask people to come prepared to say something nice about you. Donald Trump does it, I think, but I’d say he’s desperate for praise.

When a person is alive, you are constrained in your story-telling. Even at a roast, you don’t want to go too far in telling an uncomfortable truth about the person to their face. While you don’t usually do that at a funeral, either, I have been at funerals where people acknowledged these things about the deceased.

So such events can easily become what I think of as “puff” parties. You puff yourself up, or demand that others puff you up, and it becomes fake and saccharine all too often. Well, that’s what the person asked for. Some like it, I guess. I don’t.

I’d rather have an event like this that was real. It would talk about me, wrinkles, gray hair and all. I guess if I think that people can be honest enough to tell the bad stuff to my face, then whatever they say that is good is also believeable. All I can say is this: if there is never such an event for me until after I die, I hope it doesn’t happen for a very long time!

googlybear's avatar

Merely a continuation of the celebration of the lives that they have touched…

Johnny_Rambo's avatar

I think the question should be , ” why do we say such nice things about people after they are dead ” ?

dinof's avatar

In my opinion, people are just looking for a reason to have a party.

If there’s is a reason to celebrate, it should be because the soul of the deceased is now with God. No more pain, hunger, and sorrow.

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