My grandmother died on 16 November 2004 and I, along with her other three grandsons, was a pallbearer at her funeral. One thing that was moving was a photo of her as a young woman on her coffin. The Catholic Church is now moving to restrict such personal touches:
Placing mementoes such as football guernseys or photographs on coffins and playing popular music during funeral services are likely to be discouraged under Catholic Church guidelines. Catholics’ final farewells have become increasingly personalised and irreverent, according to the church’s National Liturgical Commission, which wants funerals to regain their significance as acts of worship.
There’s two sides to this story. One of the most moving funerals I’ve been to was a sung Requiem Mass. One of the worst was a funeral in a chapel where the priest began his homily with “I didn’t know Greg” and that horrible early 90s song about meeting you in heaven was played, which he would have hated. But surely there’s some room for negotiation between the family and the Church. In the past, formalised and ritualised funerals helped people cope. Perhaps they don’t so much these days. It’s necessary to recognise that “an act of worship” is not all that a funeral is.