I occasionally hear people wondering aloud about why other people write messages to the dead. Those who question the act say it is irrational because, they reason, the departed cannot read the notices directed to them. But open any daily newspaper to the Obituaries page and you will likely find “In Memoriam” tucked among the Death Notices. Those sentimental ads containing poems, acknowledgement of anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions give credence to the Latin phrase which means “in the memory of.”
Grief is a strange animal and we all react to it in our own unique way. Consider funerals for instance. They are certainly no laughing matter – but with all due respect – some of us can recall at least one funeral that had comic relief.
Imagine a pastor has enthusiastically rendered the eulogy and is seated in the pulpit, dabbing his sweaty forehead with a folded white handkerchief. The senior choir, looking solemn in their funeral robes, is swaying side-to-side with the precision of a pendulum clock, as they croon the fourth stanza of a long, tear-jerking hymn. Amazingly, cousin Grace who is sitting in the pews, jumps to her feet and lets out an earsplitting scream. Her shoulder-shaking sobs resonate throughout the church as people seated nearby gently pull her back onto the bench and try to calm her. Meanwhile, across the aisle, another woman leaps up. Spreading her arms toward Heaven she snaps her head back, inadvertently knocking off her wide-brimmed, peacock feather hat, sending it onto the lap of the person behind her. Her own blood-curding wails fill the air, as white-uniformed ushers carrying Jesus paper fans rush to aid both women.
Switch your mental channel to another, less dramatic service. It is equally as reverent, but more upbeat. A local band follows the brief eulogy with a performance of Kirk Franklin’s Brighter Day, and some family members and guests take turns making a joyful noise as they share laugher and humorous anecdotes about the deceased, celebrating a buoyant home going for their loved one.
All things considered, it is understandable that heavyhearted souls express the loss of a loved one in their own way. Some place flowers annually on a gravesite or toast with a shot of wine, others write In Memoriam.