If you think of funerals, you think of church services, flowers, coffins, mourners and graves. But something else is often very important: food and drink. In many cultures and religious traditions, a meal is an essential part of saying farewell to a dead relative or friend. It's a way of paying tribute to the departed and of fixing the occasion in the memory.
But it's also a way of acknowledging that life goes on. Food is, after all, what powers the body. And alcohol can lift the spirits and allow us to relive happy memories of the person whose life we are commemorating. A funeral ends the life of an adult, just a wedding often begins one. Meals are important at weddings too, but the symbolism is different. We don't choose the same kind of food and drink for the two occasions. Sweet things are more appropriate for weddings, savoury things for funerals. You could say that the food for a wedding should look up to the sky and the food for a funeral down to the earth.
So food can be part of the planning for a funeral, just like music, flowers and the choice of a coffin and gravestone. We think about what we would like our friends and relatives to hear and see at our funerals, so why not think about what we would like them to taste too? We all have a favourite food or drink and it's good to think people will continue to enjoy it after we pass away. If they taste it at our funeral, they will think of us - and it will be a positive association, a happy memory.
This is even more appropriate when you consider that a funeral plan is like a menu. You choose now for something that will be delivered later. Maybe you want your funeral to have a theme based on the music or films or books you have enjoyed during your life. Food can be part of that, helping to add something special to the occasion and ease the burden of grief that the mourners will be carrying. I have known of someone who liked country music and had a Western-themed funeral, right down to the food and drink. We might want the mourners to have something simple, like a buffet, or something more elaborate, like a meal in a restaurant.
Food is always a good way to bring people together and mark an occasion as something important and memorable. And mourners will often travel long distances to attend a funeral. It's not an everyday occasion, but one sign that we're getting older is that we begin to attend more funerals. We know that they will happen to everyone in the end, which is why a funeral plan is something that won't lose its value. We're planning for a certainty and sooner or later it will arrive. Food can be part of it and if we plan right we can ensure that we have a tasteful farewell in every sense of the word.