Imagine the opening and closing of an oak roll top desk representing the opening and closing of life. If there is only one time to leave a first impression then there is only one time to leave a last impression. Spiritual leadership guides the memory of the final imprint of the breath of life.

Religion, an instrument of spirituality, reflects grief?s rights to closure at the end of a life?s journey. The dead do not require clergy to pray or hear their final thoughts. Clergy respond in the time of loss to offer guidance, prayer, and grief counseling to the living during the hour of loss.

As much as opening the roll top desk is not part of closing the roll top desk, funerals and emotions have nothing to do with the other. Funerals are simply a business to the funeral director as a bakery is to a baker. Mourner?s emotions do not alleviate the financial business of the costs of funerals. Nevertheless, mourners are the mortician?s dinner ticket for without grief, what difference would a choice in casket and coffin hold?

Funeral services are the afterthought of a medical act legislated by health needs rather than emotional or intimacy needs. In early England, disease carrying from the dead to the living created a significant concern to health officials. Not until the plague spread did litigants necessitate timing and expediency of handling final closure of a rotting corpse. The decision to expedite the transportation of a dead body to a sanitary disposal failed to account for the emotions that called to light mourner?s needs.

The flight of philosophy and religion enthralled theologians and baffled public health laws with needs for final prayer for bereaved.

Compartments within the desk divide the laws from the philosophies creating an index profile of the oneness of each life. Ministerial death administration evolved focusing on mixed religious, racial, and cultural beliefs within the same families.

Multi-facets of religion, linguistics, interpretation, and culture are essential to preparing and delivering death?s steady-handed administration. Funerals and assemblies brought various ideas as to eating, mourning, beliefs, expectations, flowers, candlelight, incense, and sex.

Clergy rely on strength, education, training, leadership, and skill in guiding bereaved through grief. Certainly, divvying up needs for prayer services in the range of cultural beliefs amongst Jews, Catholics, Church of God Christians, Lutherans, Methodists, Jehovah Witnesses, Pakistani, Chinese, and Tibetans buried in the same cemetery, enhanced change. Legalities, ethics, regulations, and turpitudes for funeral directors, health departments, and embalmers could not dictate religious ceremony. Confetti, celebration, Kwanzaa candles, marches, masks, parties, prayers, Mourner?s Kiddush, scriptural readings, drunkenness, wailing, embalming, or cremation defined cultures and beliefs.

The practice of burial of infants within the same lot or space of a family member exists for various reasons among cultures and economics. Cremated ashes in urns housing deceased children upon mantles in Eastern European?s households reflect economic and spiritual decisions of family members. Lost war soldier?s services may include spiritual reference, empty caskets, or urns.

Some believe that a final romp with a loved one signifies the release of passion of life, until they meet again. A living brother-in-law offers a caressing passion, secretly interpreted in accordance to the Old Testament, recalling to the newly widowed sister-in-law she is not alone at the end of her spouse?s life. Death and sexuality separate sexuality from sensuality, gratification, and satisfaction. Nevertheless, departmentalized thinking, legislation, and faith based behaviors incorporate sexuality, necrophilia, or a mourner?s eccentric sexual appetite

When closed, the roll top desk is no longer in use. Signified at the closing of a casket is the end of life. A set of actions in the form of prayers, behaviors, and logistics define the end of a life. A eulogy reflects the completion of the opening and closing of a life. The choice of scripture verse, poetic line, or simple phrase helps the mourner find guidance through emotion. Silence is often perfect comfort, but time does not heal all wounds of loss.

Sharing, counseling, communing, and prayer with clergy, family, and friends make the moments of life the moments to celebrate.

Rev. Dr. Grace St. Godly, Ph.D.

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