In the opening minutes of Hereditary is a short shot that unnerved me so badly I gave serious consideration to excusing myself and leaving.
The movie begins with a funeral. A child stands by the casket, beholding her late grandmother. In the periphery is a man looking directly at the child and grinning horribly. I thought, if the rest of the movie is like this I don't know if I can manage it.
The remainder of Hereditary is indeed upsetting, but I found the means for managing it. I might get into that at some point, but for the purposes of this posting I'll just use the grinning man as a metaphor for the state of remembrance in this place and age — lots of grinning, little grieving.
I've been to a “celebration” that began with Led Zeppelin's “Kashmir” being played through a second-rate PA system. Things proceeded apace from there. You can believe it's a memory that haunts me. The fellow being celebrated was maybe 10 years my senior. He died by his own hand.
As we drove away from the service, I said to my younger daughter, “It doesn't matter which of our species' Big Five you settle on, so long as you publicly choose one and stick with it you will be saving the loved ones you leave behind the unintentional grief of proceedings like this.”
I have just returned from another funeral.
Given where I've been living and with whom I have associated for the past three decades — the bulk of my life — I have been in near constant contact with the Anglican Church of Canada. My difficulties, or “issues,” with it are significant. But dad is right. The liturgy helps. My wife and I borrowed the marriage liturgy when we tied the knot. I haven't given the orders, but you have my blessing to go ahead and pinch the Anglican funeral liturgy for my remembrance, should it come to that.
Getting back to the aforementioned “celebration” — the departed was born in the British Isles, a culture so thoroughly christened it is impossible to give a proper account of it. It would not have been completely out-of-bounds, I don't think, to resort to the liturgy on his behalf — in fact, at one point we all rose to say the Lord's Prayer, regardless of the man's religious convictions or lack thereof. Had we frog-marched ourselves through the liturgy, his closest friends could have said, “What a crock! R___ didn't believe a word of this guff — he must be spinning!” But that anger — that's good, isn't it? That's grief, man. That needs to be there.
Eyeh. I have enough friends who have very pointedly joined the “Nones” — I get it. In fact, I don't just empathize, I sympathize. But if that's you, please give some thought to your own funeral. Give your loved ones a chance to grieve.
LiveDifferent is the charity designated to his memory.