I don’t like funerals

By Tek Chong

In a wedding, we can joke “when is your turn?” but not so in a funeral. In a funeral when we meet old friends we haven’t seen in decades, we must be sensitive to the bereft family not to demonstrate too much joy or laugh too loudly. I have attended some bad funerals and some good funerals.


The wake is common in Malaysia and Singapore. For several nights the mourning family, especially the rich and well-known, will have tables and chairs spread out, sometimes spilling out of the house into the neighbouring streets, to entertain guests who come to pay respects to the dead and to show condolences.

The hosts will also provide refreshments or even some form of entertainment like mahjong. Some guests often get carried away while sitting around, chatting, gossiping about the living and the dead, maybe even forgetting the reason of coming to the wake.


An unforgettable service was the one for Sharon, a young divorcee. She was a highly educated and respected civil servant but her high-flying career was nipped in the bud by a vicious cancer. She fought hard against the disease, flying to many countries seeking all and every kind of treatment.

Finally, she knew that she was losing the battle. Attending our church Full Gospel Assembly Perth, our people ministered to her: visiting her, praying for her and sharing the way of salvation with her. One day she called for Goldie from her hospice bed. “I want you to help me plan my funeral”. Together they selected her favourite hymns, scripture, etc.

She asked Goldie to share a message of hope to her unbelieving family members and friends who would come to the funeral. She then spoke gently to her daughter, “Dear I want you to know mother will soon leave you and go to Heaven with Jesus. So, at my funeral I do not want you to wear black but put on your best party dress to celebrate your mother’s joyful occasion.” On that day, we had a tearful service but it was a beautiful celebration of life.


Another unusual funeral was the occasion when we buried my brother Kwong wai. He was a lecturer of civil engineering in TAFE, a tertiary institution in Perth. God miraculous healed him of his nasopharyngeal cancer 14 years previously. Because in his initial treatment, using the old radiotherapy management of his days, his optic nerves were affected. He became blind but he continued his lecturing.

We co-pastored the first Asian charismatic church in Perth, The Full Gospel Assembly for many years. One day succumbing to a cerebral haemorrhage, he was abruptly called home by the Lord. With his wife Siew Ngo we planned a funeral service to celebrate his new life in Heaven. So, on that day, beside the newly dug grave the whole church turned up with our full worship team.

With joyful sounds, we sang praises to the Lord, thus drawing the attention of the nearby grave diggers. They stopped their work to observe our unusual behaviour. The next Sunday, they attended our Sunday service, also persuading the cemetery manager to visit these “people who are not threatened by death.”


Memorial service for donors’ friends in the university

According to her wishes, Louise Ching, Goldie’s 102 years old mother, when she passed away peacefully, we donated her body to the Anatomy Department of the Medical School in Perth.

As a Christian, she believed that when she died, she will join Jesus in Heaven so instead of allowing her body to

return to dust she wanted to serve a useful purpose for the medical students to learn about human anatomy. The person in charge of examining and receiving the body declared, “this is a beautiful body!”

Two years after this the university sent us an invitation to attend a Memorial Service for the relatives of the donors. We were impressed with the grandeur of the service in Winthrop Hall, the grand magnificent ceremonial hall. As the majestic pipe organ boomed, led by the Chancellor, the full academic staff solemnly marched in columns decked in their colorful academic gowns. The Dean of the Medical school officially thanked all the families who surrendered the bodies of their beloved to benefit his medical students and benefiting mankind. This was a most meaningful and dignified memorial service.


From my student days, a poetic phrase stuck in my mind:

Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: “To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late. How can man die better ….?”
We are reminded that there are many ways of dying and many different methods people bury their dead.

I like to think that Christian funerals are unique. In a Christian funeral, we demonstrate that though we grieve for our departed loved one, it is only a temporary separation. We know death is not final, for Jesus Christa has conquered death and has promised we will do the same. If we receive Him as our Personal Saviour we will, like Him, rise from death and meet again in Heaven. So, I like funerals that have this glorious hope. 


One Comment

  1. August 2017 Feedback from readers for: Issue 32 Articles about: I don’t like funerals

    Very beautifully presented. Thanks and may you and family be blessed with the joy of our coming into this world and the leaving, that His Love may continue to live in all our fondest memories.

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