Death is a natural part of life; and while physical death is inevitable, we also believe it is not the end. We believe “because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too, shall be raised.” Thus, a funeral service, called “Burial of the Dead” in the Book of Common Prayer, is focused on our hope and joy in the resurrection. It is an “Easter liturgy,” filled with reminders that resurrection is real, even if we don’t yet know what it looks like.
At the same time, the grief of those left behind is also real. The love we have for one another in life can turn to deep sorrow in death. Even Jesus wept at the grave of his dear friend, Lazarus, before he raised him from the dead. Jesus’ hope and joy in the coming resurrection did not eliminate his sorrow at the loss of his friend, and neither does ours. So while we rejoice that one we love has been “raised with Christ” into a deeper experience of God’s love, we also grieve with those who mourn.
Parish clergy take seriously their role as comforters and encouragers in the midst of death. It is a deeply holy moment to walk with the family and friends of the deceased as they celebrate and give thanks for their loved one in a funeral service. As such, funerals in the Episcopal tradition are public services and encouraged to be held at a time when as many as possible from the community can be present.
Death is a reality for us all. Holding this truth, we also encourage you to prepare for your death while still of sound body and mind. By planning ahead, we lighten the load for those grieving after our death.