Celebrating Life: Insights from Funeral Home Company Expert, Kevin Hartley

May 30, 2024 | Funeral Services

Discover the evolution of funeral services through the lens of Kevin Hartley, a seasoned professional in the industry who has been involved in every aspect of the funeral industry for 30 years. He focuses now on promoting sustainable funeral practices, natural burial grounds and modern funeral service. Kevin has a passion for encouraging people to participate in truly meaningful end-of-life practices and events. His writings combine years of practical experience with formal psychological insights.

Explore how funeral home companies are adapting to meet the diverse needs and preferences of individuals and communities, ushering in a new era of commemoration and remembrance.

Ideas to Celebrate Life: 5 Suggestions from Potter’s Field Funeral Home Company

Are funerals for the living or the dead?

The answer is both, but it depends on the time and customs of the people involved. Funeral services have evolved over time to serve multiple purposes.

Imagine travelling back a few thousand years to the time of the ancient Egyptians and observing their approach.

If you were a Pharaoh, the planning and preparation for your journey into the afterlife could have started years before your death, and would have included mummification and possibly the building of a Pyramid as a tomb! In this case, it’s fair to say that the funeral was mostly about the (soon-to-be) dead and their future in another place. The elaborate ceremony that surrounded these state funerals would have provided the opportunity for the population to mourn their passing, but one gets a sense that that was of less importance to Pharaoh!

Historical evidence suggests funerals for ordinary Egyptians (and slaves) were much more practical affairs. They may have included a ceremony in keeping with the spiritual beliefs of the times, but without the trappings of royalty, it is easy to imagine that the focus would have been more on the personal loss of a family member or friend – much like funerals today.

Over the past 40 years (in Australia), there has been a social shift away from formal and traditional funeral services, with a greater focus on celebrating or reflecting upon the life of the deceased.

Nonetheless, for some people, religious custom and spiritual belief still shape the nature of funeral services, but even in traditional funeral services there is a shift toward reflection on the life lived, balancing the emphasis on an afterlife.

There has been a decline in formal religious practice in Australia. As a result, funerals for those individuals and families who do not share a strong belief in a life after death, continue to be a significant social event – an opportunity to publicly farewell a family member or friend and reflect on their life and the importance of that life to those still alive.

So, are funerals for the living or the dead today?

Modern funeral services reflect a variety of cultural and personal beliefs, catering to the needs of both the deceased and the bereaved. From the time of the earliest cave-dwelling humans right up to today, the death of an individual causes a pause in normal life and creates a sense of loss that creates a desire (need?) to come together. Pretty well, throughout that same time, humans have speculated about the existence (or otherwise) of an afterlife.

Beyond the practical need to organise the burial or cremation itself, we cannot be certain that anything we do on Earth is of benefit to the person who has died.

But we can be guaranteed that holding a meaningful service, with or without traditional influences, will benefit the living and honour the dead. As an independently run funeral home company in Melbourne, we believe that our contemporary funeral services are adapting to meet changing societal needs and preferences.

Celebration Of Life: Modern Funeral Service

What usually happens at a celebration of life?

The answer is there is no ‘usual’ – that’s the point of the shift from traditional funeral service formats to what has become referred to as a Celebration of Life.

Traditionally (before the internet), funeral notices appeared in the classified section of newspapers, and they almost always followed a set form. Mostly, they read something like this:

“The relatives and friends of the late Joe Brown are respectfully invited to attend his funeral service appointed to commence at 10am on Tuesday Mar 15, 2024 at the St John’s Anglican church …. etc etc”

You get the idea. Back then, the unchanging style of funeral notices reflected the (relatively) unchanging format of funerals. Then, in the late 1980’s simpler, more relaxed funeral notices began to appear, often starting like this:

“The celebration of the life of Joe Brown will commence at 10am on Tuesday Mar 15, 2024 at the Smith Chapel, followed by a gathering at Joe’s house. Please wear coloured clothing.”

The new style of funeral notice reflected a social shift away from a ‘mourning’ based ritual to a life-centred ritual. The Celebration of Life was not linked to any particular religion or group, so there were no traditional rules to follow. Contemporary funeral service choices now focus more on celebrating the life lived.

It was time to be creative, and emerging technology helped. Computers, scanners and particularly digital photography enabled the use of the (PowerPoint style) photo displays and personalised music that have now become common at funerals. Colour, themes and dress codes are often requested by families, and more casual social gatherings often follow on after the more formal part of the funeral is complete.

The shift to life-centred funeral services is now the new normal. And few would argue that moving away from socially imposed customs that promote the idea of being (and looking) sad and distressed at funerals is not a good thing. Green funeral options and modern funeral services offer a balance between celebration and remembrance. At Potter’s Field Funerals, our green funeral options and modern funeral services offer a balance between celebration and remembrance.

But can we have too much of a good thing?

Let’s face it, if we are arranging or attending a funeral then someone we know has died. When a death occurs, individually and collectively, we need to find (and seek out) healthy ways to accept what has happened and adapt to a new world in which that family member or friend exists now in memory alone.

And that leads us to a very important question – should a funeral be a celebration of life or an act of mourning? Funeral home companies are adapting to cater to these evolving needs in the community.

Visit our website or call us at (03) 95684047 to find out more.

92 Atherton Rd,
Oakleigh, Victoria 3166

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