6. Memorial Meetings And Funerals
When Friends suffer a loss through death, there is sustaining strength in the loving concern and helpfulness of members of the meeting. It is the responsibility of the overseers, or of ministry and counsel, to give such specific help as may be necessary when death comes to a family, and Friends are urged to seek their assistance. The monthly meeting may entrust these responsibilities to a pastor.
The sympathy and affection of Friends for their members who are in sorrow because of such a loss is best shown by a quiet, dignified procedure at funerals. Friends should keep to true simplicity and avoid excessive display or expense.
Individual Friends may have definite wishes concerning their own burials or cremations and the type of service they would prefer. Such wishes should be stated in writing and made known to the family. Membership in a memorial society has been found to be useful in planning a simple, dignified funeral. The type of service is determined by the family. If the family desires, the meeting house should be made available as the appropriate place to hold the meeting, but at times it may be more suitable or convenient to hold it at home or in a funeral home.
The attention of Friends is directed to the desirability of a memorial meeting, held after interment, as an alternative to the more traditional funeral. It has been noted that at a memorial meeting “attention was focused, not upon a lifeless form, but on a living spirit and a radiant faith.” When such a memorial meeting is held, it is recommended that it be in the meeting house and within a week or two after the death.
Whatever the form of religious ceremony, there is usually a brief service of committal at the grave or crematory. Any whom the family especially wishes to attend or speak should be notified in advance.
Where no family survives, or in other special circumstances, the overseers, ministry and counsel, or the pastor—with the closest friends—should see that the appropriate arrangements take place.
If the preference is for a traditional Friends’ meeting, this should be conducted in the same manner as a meeting for worship. The family will often express the desire that certain friends take part and may request the reading of appropriate selections. Others present are free to speak, but all messages should be brief. It is recommended that the messages be of such nature as befits a meeting for worship and that they not include any long eulogy. Neither should the meeting be impersonal. A loved one has left; rejoice that this Friend has been with you.