It’s okay to laugh to toast the departed
Laughter at funerals. I applaud it. While for some it may seem inappropriate for laughter and smiles I embrace the shift toward the whole ideal of “celebrating” the life of someone rather than gloomily mourning it.
Which does not mean there will be no tears, because as those fun days are recalled the voices of those delivering the memories will often shudder and break.
Which is natural and equally welcomed, because as a celebrant once said tears can be a sign of strength — of the emotions and devotions possessed and cherished by people.
I have been to many funerals and I have sensed this shift to staging a celebration where laughter and grins set the scene, and one’s strength, for that final departure from the chapel or wherever.
When an old biker chum died we waited for about eight minutes after the scheduled start time for his service . . . some glances at watches as well as at the funeral director folk who did not seem too unsettled.
Then he was brought in, and the opening line from the chirpy celebrant was that he’d always said he’d be late for his own funeral.
The service began with a grand round of laughter, and it wrapped up that way also as he was taken out to some crazy tune.
Because that was the way he wanted it.
At another service I attended the chap who had battled illness for months before leaving this thing we call the mortal coil actually spoke.
He’d recorded a message to say we should wrap this up as quickly as possible and head off for the drinks his family had sorted for later.
At another, the at-rest dad’s son told of how he entertained them as kids with farts . . . and proceeded to verbally run through a selection of his father’s favourite “tunes”.
Again, laughter and nodded acknowledgement that that was what our late chum had wanted to be told.
Last week I joined several hundred people to celebrate the life of a truly remarkable and good man.
I’d known Phil Lowrey since he first played for Napier City Rovers in 1987, before he took a break out of town the rejoined the club in 1992.
And they enjoyed a golden reign and Phil, who was a fine and fair player, was part of it all.
Every time I encountered him he produced a smile. And when he broke into a smile it was infectious.
He had been battling a dreadful illness for a couple of years but right up to the end was more interested in how his visitors were getting on. Self-pity did not exist in Phil’s handbook.
And as his brother James put it, he never lost his wit and humour.
Which is what his good mate Danny also underlined during an address which at times brought the house down with laughter.
He’d glance at Phil’s casket and roll out another yarn for a mate who loved to laugh, dance (badly) and embrace all that was good about life.
Phil’s wife also drew laughs with direct-from-the-heart stories of their life together, it was as cheerful as it was occasionally emotional . . . and their daughters took the same approach . . . it was about the good times and the great times.
It was all how it had to be, and the way Phil wanted it to be.
As the celebrant so accurately pointed out, his was a journey through life with three ‘F’ ingredients. Fun, family and football.
It was a worthy celebration of a good man’s life, and that is how these occasions best flow.
Good remembrance of good times, and it was clear from the big turn-out that Phil touched a lot of people.
And he left them smiling.