Why we love funerals – and how someone's death taught us how to live.

By: Kai Teo

Event: A funeral
Venue: Helsingborg
Date: Thursday, 19th September ‘13
Our rating: No. Just no. You don’t rate a funeral.

Funerals are fucking sad events. People go there to cry, to feel shit about not saying a proper goodbye to the person, or to regret about the things they haven’t done for the deceased when he or she was still alive.

When a best friend’s mom passed away a week ago, we were forced to deal with the issues of our fleeting lives, our unaccomplished dreams, our unfulfilling jobs, our relationships and other deep stuff like that.

Her funeral was held at a glass pavilion just beside the ocean. When we arrived, the evening sun was casting its glorious golden rays against the reflective façade of building. The sea breeze caressed our faces gently, carrying the salty scent of the ocean and playing us the unmistakable music of freedom, the waves.

It was a beautiful day. As if the gods have themselves descended to bid farewell to her.

The atmosphere was albeit a little tense. Everyone was a little careful, for fear of saying something inappropriate and upsetting a grieving friend. No one could laugh too loud, for death was considered no laughing matter.

We would have liked to give the funeral the euphemism of it being a celebration of the legacy, love and life of the deceased. However, tears of pain still streak down the faces of those who miss the dearly departed. Yes, it might have been a celebration, but one with a tumult of intense feelings.

Compassion is universal, it’s programmed in us.

As we sat through the eulogies, songs, picture collages and prayers. We couldn’t help but get pricked by the pangs of sadness that permeated through the congregation. It made me think about human compassion.

“Why am I crying? I’ve only met her once.”

But when I saw my best friend sob uncontrollably, my heart broke. Tears streamed down my face even though I tried holding them back. All sense of composure and etiquette was rendered useless. I guess that’s what we call empathy.

Powerful stuff. Makes us jump into a raging ravine to save a drowning foal, give our pocket money to the homeless kid sitting outside the supermarket, or sign up for monthly contributions for Red Cross.

Stuff that we’ve forgotten when we’re caught in the humdrum of daily chores. We often ignore the busker on our hurried journey to work, we turn a blind eye to some lady who obviously needs help carrying her shopping, and we lie to beggars when we tell them we haven’t got any cash.

We hugged. We told her that everything’s fine, we’re all here for her. And we meant it, and still mean it.

We do too little of the things that really count.

Sitting there, I watched the friends and relatives of my friend’s mom bow their heads in sadness. These were the lives she had touched, the people she had inspired, and the souls that she cherished. In contrast, many of us who are still alive have somehow been poisoned with a desensitised state of mind, lost in the midst of our senseless chase for self-recognition and consumerism.

We’re probably thinking more about helping to organise the next demonstration against racism, than giving your attention and time to knowing your housemate better, or loving your friends more.

As the tall, white candles were lit, bathing the clay urn in a soft, orange glow, I was reminded of the flares that the anarchists set ablaze during the last demonstration I witnessed in Stockholm.

All that left-wing bullshit doesn’t amount to anything if you’re not even nice to your friends. Your fucking socialism ideals are piss if you don’t even share your lunch with the beggar outside the restaurant. Your feminism is mere trash if you don’t even respect your own mother. Your hippie nonsense about universal love and peace doesn’t amount to anything if you can’t even count your simple blessings.

So many of us, are all talk. We post shit on Facebook all the time. Oh, I support this cause. I’m gonna save a fucking whale. I’m gonna sign this petition to stop them from building this nuclear plant. Oh, I’m so noble. Look at me, I posted this video on poverty in Ghana.

But when it comes down to really doing something to make a real difference. We cower. We back down. We’re suddenly, not so nice and great anymore. When was the last time you bought a homeless person lunch? Or made a friend something? Or smiled at stranger?

YOLO. So go live life.

Anyone can die at anytime. When my friend’s mom passed away, she didn’t give us two-months’ notice. She just left us, just like that.

You, and me, could die, too. Maybe right after you finish reading this, your computer might explode and blast out your face. Or when you take a shower later, you might slip on your hair conditioner, knock your head and smash your own skull in. Or your heart may just decide to stop. You get the point.

We spend too much time complaining, we spend too much effort feeling stressed, we walk too quickly and seldom enjoy the stroll, we put in too much thought about the things that piss us off, we are too unhappy.

Life’s not supposed to be like that. Sure, we might have a shit job, a shit boss, shit colleagues, shit everything. But at least we’ve got something. At least we’re alive. That’s something worth celebrating, every morning when we wake.

Love hard. And show it. Because you might not get the chance to tomorrow.

My friend’s mom loved life. She loved people. And she’s always quick to tell someone that, give him or her a hug, and pay compliments.

She gave everyone around her so much joy, she made them feel so appreciated, she showered them with love.

Hearing the eulogies, it made me think of my own life, and death. Would people talk about me the same way? Or would they even talk about me?

I’ve heard this dumb line of reasoning too many times, “If you keep telling everyone that you love them, it loses its meaning. It’s not so special anymore.”

Yea, who the fuck do you think you are? Your love is only reserved for the privileged few? Even Jesus wasn’t so stingy with his almighty love. Stop being so uptight, tell someone you love him or her today. Or like now, pick up your phone, call.

Laugh. Do stupid things. Let others laugh at you.

Embarrassment is a concept that the Swedes find harder to deal with than death itself. The worst day of their lives would probably be the time when they tripped on a cobblestone and fell flat on their faces.

My friend’s mom taught me otherwise. Her picture collage showed the funniest pictures of her, caught in the weirdest situations that would make many others crawl into a hole. But these pictures were the most beautiful.

It showed me confidence, a willingness to try new experiences, a genuine effort to spread joy to others.

What’s wrong with being in an embarrassing situation? Would others think that you’re an idiot? If so, those people are not very smart as well. Are people gonna judge you? Let them, what do they know anyway?

Ok, unless you shit your pants. Then you’ve fucked up big time. Go home. Immediately.

Just. Chill.

I’m not using this funeral as an opportunity to go all hardcore didactic on you. I’m probably writing this as a reminder to myself to be a better person, for myself, and for my loved ones.

Now go be happy. And to my friend’s mom, may she rest in peace.