A couple of months ago, I was standing in a crematorium watching the Funeral Directors bow to the coffin they had just placed on the catafalque (wooden platform). I was about to do the same. And a rogue thought flashed into my head: we bow at a coffin a lot… I wonder how many times the deceased was bowed to when they were alive?
I am absolutely not decrying the decorum with which funerals are conducted and the respect we show towards the deceased; I do think that is very important. But I would like to see more marks of respect paid to people when they are still alive. What would it look like if we said nice things in someone’s lifetime, not just in their eulogy after they have gone? How different would our lives be if we acknowledged each and every person is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by God (Psalm 139:14, NRSV)? Would society function differently if we realised that life is not just a gift given to an individual, but for the whole of creation to celebrate and enjoy?
God of all,
Fill us with self-compassion enough
to love and cherish our bodies as temples of your Spirit,
fearfully and wonderfully made;
Prompt us with empathy enough
to love and cherish other bodies, also temples of your Spirit,
fearfully and wonderfully made, AMEN.
13 Thou it was who didst fashion my inward parts;
thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee, for thou dost fill me with awe;
wonderful thou art, and wonderful thy works.
Thou knowest me through and through:
my body is no mystery to thee,
15 how I was secretly kneaded into shape
and patterned in the depths of the earth.