Coming on the heels of my recent post on graveyards, let me direct you to this interesting article from The Federalist on the trend of turning funerals into parties, aka “celebrations of life.” What’s wrong with focusing on the positive in the midst of the most profound of losses? Chad Bird explains here. The ramifications matter. When a person, a community, or a culture denies the meaning and reality of death it runs the risk of devaluing life. In trying to de-emphasize death to the point of ignoring the reasons (both physical and spiritual) for it, the suffering it causes, and its impending inevitability, people are ostensibly trying to emphasize life. But all that is being accomplished is the sanitization of death, and this has the effect of trivializing both death and life. What’s needed is balance.
Here is a taste–
The other danger revolving around a Celebration of Life is harder to detect, for it is camouflaged by euphemistic language and wears a smiling mask that whispers half-truths that we, especially in the throes of grief, want to believe as if they’re nothing short of gospel. The danger is simply this: that we downplay death and, in so doing, fail to fully appreciate life. Stripped of its euphemistic language, the get-together billed as a “celebration” or even a “party” is, in truth, a gathering of mourners around a corpse. And that dead body not only preaches that death has claimed this particular life, but it betokens our own inevitable demise. To the extent that we bury our head in the sand when confronted with the reality of death, to that same extent we miss out on an opportunity to learn more about, and to appreciate more deeply, the life that is ours.
It should come as no surprise that a culture which has euphemized the beginning of life has also euphemized its end. A woman is not pregnant with a child, but an “embryo” or a “fetus.” If that “fetus” is unwanted, the “patient” can opt to exercise her “reproductive rights” by going to a “medical professional” to “terminate” the pregnancy through “abortion.” These euphemisms are convenient shields behind which one can hide when confronted with the truth that a mother can hire someone to kill her baby. They are verbal enablers of self-deception, vague, generic utterances into which we can stuff whatever meaning suits our fancy or pacifies our conscience. In the case of abortion, euphemisms enable our culture to look the truth of life square in the face and deny its existence. In the case of a Celebration of Life, euphemisms apply the makeup of life to the face of death.