When I retired as a humanist celebrant I thought I'd stop writing this blog, but my fascination with all things death-related prompted more posts. They're just written from a slightly different perspective, that's all. Oh, and I still do the odd one, by special request.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Posthumous conversions

Henry Allingham, the WW1 veteran who died on July 18th, aged 113, wasn't a religious man. He told the Guardian:
I can see why people fall out with religion. I last took communion in 1918. The Salvation Army were waiting for the boys to come out of the trenches. 'Cup of tea, soldier?' Yes please. 'There you go, son.' The Church Army had set up a quarter of a mile away: 'Cup of tea, soldier?' Yes please. 'Penny!' I didn't like that. They had all the money.
Many of the men who fought in WW1 left their faith on the battlefield. Whose side was God on? many of them asked. So why did the church get to muscle in on Henry's funeral? They didn't have him in life, so they took over when he died? Makes me cross when this sort of thing happens. A funeral should reflect a person's philosophy of life. If religion played no part in it, then it should play no part in his or her funeral. Damn cheek.

A few years ago, I was asked to conduct a private family funeral for the gardening correspondent of the East Anglian Daily Times and BBC Radio Suffolk, Roy Lacey. Roy had told his family that he wanted me to conduct his funeral, as he'd listened to my broadcasts and agreed with what I'd said. Subsequently, the editors of the EADT and BBC Suffolk agreed with the family that they'd like to broadcast a memorial event for Roy, and Mrs Lacey said she wanted me to lead it, as that's what Roy would have wanted. It was recorded at a school in Felixstowe, where Roy lived.

Various people were to provide tributes to Roy, there was a recording he'd made of his personal reminiscences, and we were to play Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending, which he liked. Then I was told that the event would include The Lords' Prayer. 'Why?' I asked. I can't remember the EADT editor's exact words, but it was something along the lines of, people would expect it, or it would include religious people. But Roy had specifically said that he didn't want any religion at his funeral, I said, and he wouldn't have wanted it now. I seem to remember that Mrs Lacey agreed with me, and the subject was dropped. I still have the recording somewhere. It was a moving occasion, and I don't think that anyone mentioned that anything was missing.

1 comment:

Greg said...

What a shame. Similar thing happened to my atheist Dad; although he was questioning towards the end my Mum made sure his service was happy-clappy religious, such that I didn't regret not going (it was in NZ), preferring to remember his life.