I was invited to attend a funeral. The 16 year old daughter of one of my colleagues had passed away.
It is never pleasant news when you hear that a relative of a friend has passed away, but it is much worse when you hear of someone so young leaving this earth. I didn’t know her at all, but her father and I have worked closely together for the past year. Seeing his pain, I cannot even begin to imagine of what he must be going through.
The funeral service was attended by more than 200 people, with a large number of them being teenagers themselves. It was held in a denomination-neutral hall at the memorial grounds and was officiated in a very religion-neutral way. No talk of Jesus or singing of hymns, but rather a few speakers, remembering her, her life and the joy she brought to it, and a bit of music from one of her fellow students. At the end of the service, which lasted maybe half an hour, the cask was taken outside by 6 bearers, including her father, brother and uncle, and put in a hearse. No final farewell at the grave.
From there it was to the reception for a few well-timed alcoholic beverages and some food.
To me, all this brought back memories of my best friend’s brother, who died as a teenager in a car accident more than 20 years ago. The small differences in the way the services were conducted are insignificant in the face of the pain and loss that was felt by all of the assembled. Letting go of someone so young is universally tragic.