April 17 – “Funeral Favours”

I surfaced from my sabbatical today to officiate at a funeral service for a woman who gave so much of herself to our church, and lived a remarkable life. Her life was well celebrated by many. Her grandchildren moved us all by sharing two “Nana-rituals” that defined for them the love they shared with their grandmother.

First, there was the ritual of the Werther. Their grandmother kept her purse well stocked with Werther Candies that she would quietly slip to them during movies, sports events, car rides or even while watching TV on the couch.

Secondly, there was the ritual of the candy bag. Their grandmother ended every visit to her home by inviting her grandkids into the kitchen where, on the top of the fridge, she would have paper bags, each filled with a handful of smarties, jelly-beans and jube-jubes.

So, in her honour, the grandchildren prepared 300 “goodie bag” of treats (jelly beans, smarties, jube-jubes and Werthers) to give to each person in attendance at the funeral, as a way to pay tribute to their grandmother. It was a very nice touch.

And I can say, the candies were delicious!

It’s not the first time I have seen families give funeral attendees something to take with them after a service. In fact, it is becoming more and more common. As funeral services change from being sombre, sacred affairs to being more upbeat “celebrations of life” people are finding creative ways to honour their loved ones. Often they do this by giving everyone something to take home. I call them “funeral favours”. I’m not trying to be trite or funny, but that is what they appear to me. We have party favours, shower favours, wedding favours and now funeral favours.

Over the years I have seen grieving families give out some interesting, and very movning, funeral favours to their guests at a funeral; packets of seeds, flowers, pictures, hockey cards, shells, etc. I even watched an entire congregation at a funeral take a shot of whiskey in honour of the person who had passed away. Each person was invited to take the glass home with them as a memory. I passed on that one as I didn’t want to stumble over the benediction.

How you feel about this trend is up to you, but every time I see it happen, I ask myself, “I wonder what my family would give away at my funeral?” What trinket, or symbol would most define my life to them or to those gathered? Would it be a cross? A Toronto Maple Leaf pin? A Canadian flag? A chocolate covered cherry? A mini soccer ball?

I don’ t know, it would be up to them, but I know what I would want people to have on my behalf. I would want everyone to leave my funeral with a rock engraved with the word “peace”. I carry in my pocket such a rock and have for years. It is my hidden talisman. When life gets stressful, I reach into my pocket and run my hand over the word PEACE and take a deep breath. My peace rock has grounded me on more than one occasion, and reminded me that whenever I am and whatever I am doing, I am held in the peaceful embrace of God.  That rock has travelled many miles, and gently nudged me through many valleys, and if it could talk it would share a lot about who I am.  I think I would want that rock to be a legacy that I leave behind and share.

What about you? What funeral favours could we find at your celebration of life?