1. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    Time to plan a Funeral.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by stormcat, Sep 17, 2014.

    One of my characters has died. He's already been buried, but his family still wants to hold some kind of memorial service as the ritual helps to soothe their grief. Having only been to two funerals in my entire life, I'm not 100% sure how they work. Take into consideration the following things; the ceremony must be secular in nature, as the deceased and his family are all atheists, the body has already been buried and very few people will be able to attend, how should I write out a memorial service scene?
     
  2. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you think it should go? Because you know the world. You know the characters. You know how they'll react to the character's death.

    Open a new document.

    Start with "The group walked up to CHARACTERNAMEHERE'S grave." Hit enter a few times then write. "They left the cemetery."

    Then go back to the start and write. Start from where I put you. Then one of them says something as they stare at the grave marker. Then someone else steps up. Someone cries. There's only a few characters so maybe all of them can say something. Maybe one can be stricken with grief and says nothing. Then finish.

    Writing a funeral sucks. I've done it once and it was horrible. I kill characters every now and then but I had to spend a whole chapter dwelling on it and it sucked. And I've only been to a funeral once. But make your own funeral. Customize it for your characters. It's your world! Do what you want. Mine was in a fantasy world so it was fun creating a culture with the funeral.
     
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  3. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    there's lots of traditions in various cultures about funerals and memorials, secular or religious. I'd do some research and see if a particular idea struck me. a couple of things they seem to have in common is that they are for the people who are remembering the deceased to be together, often over food and/or alcohol, and not just individually mourn but to collectively share memories and see that they aren't each alone, if that makes sense.
     
  4. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    I know I'm gonna have the family and friends of the deceased gather around his grave, but I am unsure of what they should say or do other than be sad.
     
  5. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    @stormcat it might help to write out a note sheet to yourself of how each of the characters feel--not only about the dead person, but about each other. say, the dead person is Bobby, and the characters are Bobby's wife, Jane; Bobby's son, Brian; Bobby's brother, Mike; and Mike's daughter, Shirley.
    • does Jane miss Bobby? was his death unexpected, or did they see it coming (sickness)? does she secretly feel relieved that she doesn't have to keep a secret from him any more?
    • did Brian and his father do a lot of stuff together and generally get along, or did they argue frequently? were they on good terms when they last saw each other? does he feel that Bobby was a good parental influence, or bad?
    • did Mike and Bobby fight as kids? did they ever talk about death or dying? does Mike blame himself for not having done something that might have affected Bobby's life--or death? how does he feel about Jane?
    • what does Shirley think about Uncle Bobby? was he kind of creepy and weird, or was he pretty cool? did she even spend much time with him? is she just going through the motions of grief to keep her family happy, while feeling a little guilty that she doesn't actually feel any grief at all?
    if you understand what the characters are thinking, it's a lot easier to figure out what kind of things they'd say to each other, and how they'd react. :)
     
  6. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    It's not the dialogue I'm having trouble with, it's the actual ceremony.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    If he's already burried it's very unlikely they would have a ceremony at the grave. A freshly filled grave is just a patch of dying grass. The headstone won't be added for six months to a year. There's not really a lot to do there.

    So a picnic in the park or a gathering at someone's house is a much more realistic. And you can sit down and get snacks and that's nice too.
     
  8. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    ah--I was confused by your previous reply, "I am unsure of what they should say or do other than be sad." I think @Jack Asher has a good point, that you're not looking for a ceremony as much as an informal gathering. ceremony implies ritual, even if it's a secular function, which would usually happen either during or immediately after the burial/cremation/whatever or on a specific date--a day of remembrance of the dead, for example.
     
  9. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    One ought prefer to encounter grief with a full stomach.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If he's already buried, the ceremony/service/ritual can be absolutely anything that the family or friends want. (Well, it can be even if he's not already buried, but in that case you'd likely need the cooperation of a funeral home, and there's probable a limit to how outlandish an event they'd participate in.)

    In my (lapsed Protestant) experience, the events around a death tend to include:

    1) An informal gathering of the friends and family of the deceased, before the more formal event. If people are gathering around the deceased in a casket, this tends to be called "visitation" (in my Protestant family culture), or, if you're Catholic, a wake. (I think.) Depending on your culture, food or drink might be involved; in my family you were lucky to be able to find a glass of water. This, in my experience, tends to be fairly hushed and sad. It's often a day or two before the other events.

    2) A more formal ceremonial event where various speakers talk about the deceased and other people sit, audience-like, and listen. If you're religious, some of those speakers say and do religious things; if you're not, you can do what you please. Variants on the stand-up-and-speak format could include a photographic slide show, or music, that sort of thing. This is the actual funeral, in my terminology.

    3) The burial/internment. This is usually where people are going when you see that line of cars--from the funeral to the burial. A subset of the people who went to the ceremonial thing come and watch the casket actually be lowered into the ground. This assumes that you're the casket/burial type. If you're the ashes/urn type, I think that dealing with the ashes tends to come some time after the other events, perhaps months after.

    4) Another informal gathering, where people talk about the deceased, and there is more reliably food and drink. This can often slowly turn into a family reunion, with a happier mood.

    If the deceased is already buried, then I think that you're likely to have 2) and/or 4). But there's no law that says that you can't have a seated afternoon tea with tap dancers performing a butterfly release, followed by a primal scream session.
     
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  11. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak 's right, if the character is already buried then you can do anything you like as a memorial from a lap dance at his favourite club to a moonlit scattering of flowers from a cliff top. You know your characters better than anyone else, only you know what they would do.

    It could be the best get-together in the world with stories from the dead character's past or it could be a gathering that descends into a mass brawl about the deceased's belongings and who gets the brass horse-shoes that he spent his whole life collecting and polishing (definitely not Uncle Jim, he's a drunk who only turned up for the free booze).

    But you see where I'm going with this. If you are still unsure, try writing a few different version and see which one fits with how you think it should be.

    Good Luck! x
     
  12. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Why did I read "tap dancers" as "lap dancers"??

    It's late, time for bed me thinks! o_O:rofl:
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, "seated afternoon tea with lap dancers" is certainly a more absurd scene, and I was going for the absurd...
     
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  14. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Well that's certainly painted an interesting picture in my mind ...
    "More tea, Vicar?"
    "Don't mind if I do but you can keep your nipple tassel, thank you!"
     
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  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a bit confused as to what they did for the funeral, which is the ceremony culminating in burial. Did they have just the immediate family at the cemetery, was he just plunked in the ground with no one but the funeral director and burial detail - ?? If there's going to be a memorial service, there's typically a private funeral service (close family/friends only) with the memorial service for "the public" or more distant family/friends later. And yeah, that can be whatever and wherever you want it.
     
  16. mom42terrificgirls
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    mom42terrificgirls Member

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    I went to one of these once, a secular service. Person had already been cremated so it was considered a memorial service to celebrate his life, not a funeral. They went around the group of "mourners" and we each reflected on a special time with the deceased, a funny story, or something that we would remember him by. There was no prayer, although I think we sang a song of peace or something like Let Peace Begin With Me. Hope that helps.
     
  17. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I actually just attended the memorial of my step-granfather last Friday. He had donated his body to science, and when science is done with it he wants to be cremated and then interred. I'm not sure why he has to be ashes before he gets buried, but it's his funeral.

    We met in a public park. There was a potlock, everyone brought food. They had only expected 50 people and got nearly twice that, so there was a run for more plastic silverware and napkins. Everyone ate and there was a PA system where people told stories about Bennie Saindon. At the end we sang "My Way," or tried to while we cried; to the accompaniment of Frank Sinatra. Everyone stopped by his widow to say goodbye, and we went home to deal with all the food people had left.

    I don't really have a point, except that the song was, by far, the most emotional event of the day. And that similar experiences with funerals and memorials has proved the same.
     
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  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I had tears in my eyes reading that.

    That's the thing with memorials, they can be whatever you - or the person who's passed- wants them to be, regardless of religion, race or if they are a fictional character. It's your way of saying goodbye and that is as personal to each person as their own fingerprints.
     
  19. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    People usually try to find something positive to say about the (physically) departed and, in fact, unless the deceased was notoriously decadent and/or negative, people tend to ignore the bad memories or forget them altogether.

    Since the person in question is already dead and dog-boned, the memorial service may well be a matter of weeks, months or, as some like it, a year later, on the anniversary of the death. As you can tell from the variety of responses you have received already, the way in which you deal with this can and should be as individual as you and your characters.
     
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  20. Jecon
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    Jecon Member

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    Considering their atheists, I think they would prefer a simple dinner, say, every weekend, to remember their departed friend.
     
  21. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just curious, now, (in a snarky kind of way). How many atheists do they own?
     
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