Today I am writing a funeral service for my Dad.

I didn’t want someone with rings on their fingers or bells on their toes to stand before our small gathering of family and friends and talk about the life and loss of someone they didn’t know. Come what may I am going to lead the service.

We know funerals as ceremonies for celebrating, respecting, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. There is no set format and I know what to do, and I am asking my family to join me and share their own stories and memories.

An old photograph of me and Dad, it was a family picture before I cropped it

Throughout history we have always had funeral rites and rituals, there have been traditions for how we grieve and bid farewell to someone who has died. Our modern world is one in which we respect tradition and at the same time we’re less bound by formality, and with regard Dad’s funeral I don’t feel constrained by solemnity. On Monday I will be observing the custom of commemorating life upon death and with my family we will celebrate and honour Dad in our own way. That is how many funerals are held now, after all, we are a generation inspired by Sinatra’s singing of My Way and that’s how we do things, in our own ways.

Maybe Dad would have liked some fanfare and procession or choirs singing hymns, he never mentioned any such things. My family are taking the opportunity to share our memories, to remember the man, the husband, father, uncle, grand-dad, neighbour and friend. We will remember, we’ll hold hands and smile together as we mourn his passing. A fitting remembrance.

I will miss my Dad as the source of my independent and stubborn nature, he was a proud man. He was also a self sufficient and resourceful man. He built our family home, for example, one of his proudest achievements after his children. He did all of the manual work around our home whether it was painting, plumbing or laying a floor covering. I can’t recall ever needing a tradesperson, a gardener or a mechanic, he filled all of those roles and more. Leading the service is a tribute to him.

He used to say that “God helps those who help themselves”. I used to think the phrase was a biblical quote, I looked it up and it is not from the Bible. It informs me about Dad’s world view and the importance of taking initiative and responsibility for oneself. That’s funny because when we disagreed it was often because I wouldn’t take his advice. He despaired at my inability to learn from his mistakes. Like him, I make my own mistakes. He was a willful do it yourself person, and am like that too.

Forgive my use of bullet points and for having goals for this event. Forgive me too for referring to the funeral as an event. I have spent too long in the corporate world to not use jargon and bullet points or set objectives. That’s my way, and I am trying to break old habits but as it happens I do have some objectives, they are to:
– acknowledge Dad’s life and to acknowledge his passing
– share my feelings in the presence of family and friends and allow them to share their feelings while in the presence of, and supported by, those we know best
– mourn for Dad and to remember his life by talking about my memories of him and hearing the memories and stories of others
– honour him with a funeral that is a tribute to him

The Funeral Director, on finding himself relegated to the sidelines, tried to advise on what to do and how to do it. That’s a nice way of explaining we had a little run in. My sister and I chose songs to play that we remember Dad singing and they’re boisterous shanties. The Director was dubious about our selection, which include Blow the Man Down and What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor. Hardly requiems, but the Funeral Director had apparently never learned there is no such word as can’t. Ask any of my siblings, can’t is not in our vocabulary, Dad told us again and again, “there is no such word as can’t“. Anyway we sorted out the songs and, naturally, we’re doing it our way.

Right now I have written more about writing the service than I have written in the service itself. Back to my task. Dad help me, I can do this.