What a start to 2020 – The first funeral of two in one week and I struggled with what to wear. It got me thinking about the accepted norm – Black.
A tradition handed down through countless generations with regards to funeral etiquette, specifically the customary code of dress attire.
Black is strongly associated with death and mourning in the West and is believed to date back to Roman times but is still rooted in the culture of this era, specifically with our generation.
As a caregiver for the aged, I seem to have had most of my experience with ‘the silent generation’ – people estimated to have been born between 1925 (age 95) and 1945 (age 75). A population raised in conditions complicated by war and economic depression – they grew up expecting a hard life – an era when a Christmas present might be an orange! They also taught us how to survive and get up – generational abundance passed on.
No surprises that in terms of funerals they are undeniably traditional with strong ecclesiastic values, solid family ties and steering away from radical innovation. The thought of a funeral being depicted as “a celebration of one’s life” or “thanksgiving” was a tough call for a group of people raised in a paternalistic environment, where conformity and conservatism are prized.
They generally don’t ruffle feathers or initiate conflict, and ‘black clothing’ would be worn as a sign of respect for those grieving – the whole idea fascinated me as I just couldn’t imagine how a church full of dark, lifeless clothing could uplift a community already dealing with the loss of a loved one.
In my opinion, it only makes things worse being surrounded by colours that could potentially have the capacity to attract and transmit negative and distressing frequencies in the environment, especially as most of the congregation are already in a weakened emotional state of mourning.
Much of the colour choice within religious groups has to do with personal interpretations about death and the afterlife. I believe that funerals are a time to provide light to those when they need it the most, to see people you genuinely know and like and to join together in love. Personally, lighter colours such as white seems to be more in line with my energetic preferences and coincidently have a symbolic meaning of purity and rebirth.
“Interestingly before Queen Victoria died in 1901, she left very detailed instructions of how she wanted white to play a part in her funeral, despite wearing black at all those she attended. Not only did she wear her white wedding veil over her face, but she also requested white horses and a white pall over her coffin to be part of her send-off.”
At the end of the day, funerals enable us to become aware of our mortality and the fragility of this life. It is a profound event that can inspire us and motivate us to live life to the fullest, with a sense that we should not waste our days but instead, experience, learn, grow and connect.
I think that it is the end of our physical journey but the beginning of the re-emergence into the non-physical to continue the ‘great circle of life’. And so…
Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glint on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you wake in the morning hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft starlight at night. Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there, I did not die! – Mary Elizabeth Frye