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Talking about spirituality and religion. This afternoon I attended the funeral of a Religious Sister whose convent is just across the road from me. She had spent 76 years in the enclosed convent and received the full liturgical Christian burial ritual of the Catholic Church.

  I have never had the experience of attending the funeral of a non-believer. How and where is such a funeral   'ritualized', if at all? Is there a standard procedure? I presume many take place in a crematorium. How is the life of such a non-believer celebrated on his/her death?


The non-believer (well, they had their beliefs, but not any main line religions) funerals I've attended are usually termed 'memorials' and have usually been held in rented halls. Few have been at the crematorium; the ashes have generally been in attendance. There is no standard procedure; someone, a friend or family member, speaks about the person. Then the floor is usually opened up for others to share memories of the person. After no one else stands up, the person who spoke first closes. There is almost always a pot luck, so the attendants can visit with each other.

They have been MUCH more participatory than any in church funeral Ive attended, and I've learned much more about the person than I have ever learned from a religious officiant doing a standard service. Shame the memorial part isn't combined with the religious service when it's a believer who has died!
I'm confused. By "memorial" do you mean "wake?" or is this something different?
I've not been to a wake, so I'm not sure. The American use of 'memorial' is a substitute for a church funeral, rather than an addition to, which I think a wake is? The memorial is both sad and a celebration of the dead person's life, but none I've been to have been raucous.
I actually am American. :)

The wake is the service before the funeral; usually the day or two beforehand where the deceased is displayed and you can pay your respects and give your condolences to the family. Often times there are flowers displayed and pictures of the deceased.

We usually have a brief memorial service at the funeral home and then burial (though almost all funerals I've ever been to have been religious, so you'd have the wake the day before, then a brief service at the funeral home before the mass at church followed by the burial at the cemetery.)
Okay, so I was right; the wake is something that is done when there is a regular funeral. The memorial gathering is all there is for the person, as done in this area, at any rate. And they were all for cremated folks.

The only burial I've attended had a service at the funeral home first, then we all drove to the cemetery where the officiant gave a very brief talk, the head of the local VFW said something, and then they did the 21 gun salute. I hadn't realized he'd been so high ranked (many, many years before) until that moment!
I would understand memorial to mean anything that helps us remember the deceased, be it words or actions or structure.
Miss Manners draws the distinction: funeral is when you have the body (cremated or not), memorial service when you don't.
We have funeral homes where most people, both religious and non-religious, go to have a wake and then the funeral is usually held in a church. If they are not religious, the ceremony can he held in the funeral home and then people can go to the cemetery for burial.

I remember one (though the person was buried at a church cemetery, but the service was in a funeral home) where after the service people just started sharing their thoughts and stories from the deceased. It was rather nice. After we went to the burial, there was a dinner.

My uncle was Catholic and had his funeral said in the small chapel of the cemetery with my father delivering the eulogy.

I've only once been to a funeral where someone was cremated and that had happened well before the funeral and the person still had Catholic ceremony in a church.

Almost every funeral I have ever been to had a dinner or luncheon afterwards.
in my growing up "wake" was the "party" afterwards where family and friends gathered to remember the deceased and tell good stories

where i live now it is a "viewing" which is held either in the "Funeral Home" (that's what the undertakers call their business) or the protestant church
If in the "Home" usually the night before the funeral
If in the church usually an hour before the funeral

there is always a meal afterward that all attendees are invited to
the church ladies provide the food

i can't speak for catholics - i haven't been to a catholic funeral here

my only catholic experiences were my relatives
we sat in the "Funeral Parlor" (that's what it was called there) - it seemed like for days - people came "to pay their respects"
and then there was the mass
burial was private later

for my parents we never had a "viewing"
there was a Mass for my mother
for my father there was a grave side service at which the priest kindly said a few words - my father was totally unaffiliated but went to mass with my mother occasionally for holidays

my mother died in the winter - it was too cold to burry her - they had to save her for later - we lived at a distance - i never went

the catholic mass was nice - particularly the one for my mother-in-law
we were told NOT to wear black as it was a celebration of her joining with Jesus

we plan to be cremated and have NO public ceremony of any sort
but, of course, for the final one of us that will be up to our son
i think he shares our views
Both of my parents, who were not church-going people, were buried in a tiny cemetery in the middle of nowhere where family has been buried for the last 100 years or so. They died two years apart at the ages of 78 and 82. The funerals were held at the graveside. The officiant was the pastor of a local small church. He had come to us a few days before and we shared our memories of our parents and their lives with him. The Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm were read, I sang an old gospel song called Beyond the Sunset and my brother played the guitar. We each tossed a flower into the grave and the tiny grandchildren, who didn't really understand the whole, each released a balloon up into the heavens for Grandma/Grandpa. My mother and father lie next to her parents, a brother and his wife and surrounded by my grandmother's brothers and their families.

My husband and I will both be cremated and the ashes scattered with no service, but we hope our friends here in Sweden will have a drink on us and hopefully think of us with fond memories.

Oh, I should have mentioned that notices of their deaths were put in the local papers (very rural community) and it was heart-warming to see many people who turned out for the burials, who shared memories of my mother especially, as she had lived there as a girl, and afterwards, we went back to my uncle's house where people were invited for meats and drink and we did spend a fair amount of time talking with everybody and hearing stories of "the old days", which was truly lovely.

Edited at 2017-09-20 05:49 (UTC)
Thank all who have contributed your interesting thoughts and memories on deaths and funeral practices. I pray God's blessing on all your own deceased. May they rest in peace.
thank you
i value that
May your kindness be blessed