Whether you have a loved one that wanted the quietest of funerals, or none at all, or the wildest razzmatazz with all the punk rock songs chosen, in order, the reasons why we have a funeral service are as diverse as we are ourselves.
Since time immemorial, in addition to offering a way to respectfully say goodbye to someone we love, funerals have been the way for us to express our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about life and death.
Funerals are also a good chance for us to stop and think, to wake up and ponder what we truly care about and how we want to spend our own remaining days.
We can also wonder at the preciousness of our own time on earth. So the purpose of a funeral is just as much about the living as the dearly departed really, and a time to ask ourselves the following questions.
Did the person I love have a good life? How well did the scales balance? What is life, anyway? Why do we have to die? There are no simple answers to these questions, but the funeral gives us a time and place to pause, to hold the questions in our hearts and begin to find our way to answers that give us peace.
A meaningful ceremony for our loved one is a tapestry, woven with many different elements, and it can create a profound change in those who attend; it's an experience that is much greater than the sum of its part.
While each family's ceremony will and should be a unique tapestry, it can only create a tapestry if it draws on the full repertoire of possible elements.
It is through combining the pieces of the ceremony - the viewing, music, readings, eulogy, symbols, actions, the gathering and the wake that the complete picture of your loved one emerges. While each element may seem random or superfluous when considered separately, they are essential to the final experience.
When we grieve but don't mourn, our sadness can feel unbearable and our many other emotions can fester inside of us. Mourning helps us heal, and the funeral is an essential rite of initiation for mourning.
Funerals are also social gatherings that bring together people who cared about the person who died. It's is a special time and place to support one another in grief.
At this time we also begin to convert our relationship with the person who died from one of presence to one of memory. When we come together to share our memories, we learn things we didn't know and see how the person's life touched others.
It's never easy to accept the death of our loved ones, but a funeral helps us begin to do so.
To accept it with our heads, is hard enough, and only over time can we keep the memories close to our hearts.
It is natural that you may be unsure of what to do, what steps to take, and who to call when a death occurs in your family.
You're probably so sad that arranging a funeral is the last thing you want to think about.
Rest assured there are stages and procedures, and people who look after all the details for you.
For instance, did you know that when someone dies, a doctor must sign a certificate that confirms the death?
Also, funeral arrangements can't be completed until the doctor has signed and issued this certificate.
It is extremely important that when a death occurs in a hospital or aged care facility that you pass on the details of the funeral director on behalf of the family.
In most cases, a medical certificate stating cause of death will be issued by the attending or family doctor.
Occasionally, when a sudden or unexpected death occurs, a medical certificate cannot be issued immediately and the coroner needs to be notified.
It does not necessarily mean that untoward circumstances are suspected, it is simply a procedure that must be followed to prepare a report for the coroner to establish the cause of death.
Under these conditions, the funeral director will let you know the procedures and further timing once they are authorised to proceed with funeral arrangements.
Once the necessary clearances and releases are obtained, your loved one is then transferred to the funeral home for appropriate care.
There is no set time-frame between death and the funeral service, however, it is good to allow more time than less.
Normally this is at least four to five days. When the funeral is over you will be thankful that you allowed yourself enough time to create a fitting farewell for your loved one.
The role of a funeral director is to provide a very special service and ensure the wishes of the family and the deceased are filled. A funeral director can do the following:
Arrange all matters requested by the family taking into consideration the legal, social, cultural and religious considerations relating to the deceased and to the mourners.
Transportation of the deceased from the place of death to the mortuary.
Preparation of the deceased
Collation of certificates from hospital or doctor's surgery
Completion of statutory requirements
Preparation and insertion of newspaper notices
Contact with clergy or funeral celebrant
Organise bookings at the venue, church, cemetery and/or crematorium
Officially register the death
Obtain copies of the death certificate
Organise all details of the funeral service, including the supply of vehicles and pall bearers.
A funeral is a very special event, the ceremony needs to be a fitting farewell and a celebration of a life well lived.