The first funeral reception I ever attended (as a six-year-old) brings back memories of epic battles I fought with my cousins, using gooseberries as our ammunition. And of course my father, who unsuccessfully tried to persuade us to find a more proper entertainment, due to the seriousness of the event.
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Why do I mention the gooseberry battle? Because after many years I am deeply convinced that, along with my cousins, we unconsciously discovered and realized one of the reasons for the after-funeral gathering. It’s building ties. The devastation of the gooseberry bush resulted in outstanding connections among us. The meeting of family and friends that follows a funeral strengthens the bonds that unite us.
Building relationships is just one of the reasons this time together is important. Here are some others:
Simple gratitude and concern
Some of the attendees of the funeral have traveled quite a long distance, and it is simply polite to feed them. Sure, they would take care of themselves, but this is another way we can show them our gratitude — for coming, for remembering, for finding the time and wanting to be with us in this painful moment. Such simple gestures are very important. It is good to be able to offer them, but also to accept them. They bring people closer.
A moment to be together
It is almost as good a chance as any other to reconnect with cousins who you have not seen for a while or talk in person with an aunt you normally only call during the holidays. It could bet that that 15 minutes of conversation will bring a renewal of family contacts, which have been weakened or maybe even forgotten.
What makes us a family, apart from genetics, is a common history with which we identify, made up of real people and events. A funeral reception is a great opportunity to share your memories, both the funny and the serious ones, and thus broaden and strengthen the memory of the family history as a whole. It is worth doing that at other times too. You could organize family story meetings. Get together over tea and cake and tell stories to the young children about grandparents and uncles who may already be gone.
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Sometimes we are uncomfortable after the funeral. Usually, we worry unnecessarily. Perhaps at the family table, it will be easier to release — in a good way — the stress. There is nothing wrong with quiet sniffling mixed with an occasional, “Mary, be so kind and pass the pickles, please.” Life goes on, and the pork chop on plate tickling our noses will remind us of that without unnecessary pathos.
A family table can become a simple but meaningful sign of our Christian hope that one day we will all meet at the Feast in the House of Our Father. So let’s have the courage to propose a moment of prayer for the dead.
Where, how, for how much
A simple event can be organized at home, or (probably more comfortably) in a restaurant. Many restaurants have special offers for such occasions. Consider the presence of alcohol, especially with many people likely traveling and driving afterward. It’s probably better to withstand one displeased uncle twitching his nose than to regret your choices of hospitality.