Friday, January 6, 2012

Funerals and flowers

I was in a wake last night and the night before. While seated on a wooden bench, a fresh set of beautifully arranged flowers arrived. They pleased my eyes. Suddenly the thought of flowers made me ponder on flowers and funerals. Do they really come in pair? But flowers also come during Valentine’s right? I decided to hit to do some research.
According to Wikipedia, a funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor. These customs vary widely between cultures, and between religious affiliations within cultures. The word funeral comes from the Latin funus, which had a variety of meanings, including the corpse and the funerary rites themselves. Funerary art is art produced in connection with burials, including many kinds of tombs, and objects specially made for burial with a corpse.
Moreover, funeral rites are as old as the human culture itself, predating modern Homo sapiens, to at least 300,000 years ago. For example, in the Shanidar cave in Iraq, in Pontnewydd Cave in Wales and other sites across Europe and the Near East, Neanderthal skeletons have been discovered with a characteristic layer of flower pollen. This has been interpreted as suggesting that Neanderthals believed in an afterlife although the evidence is not unequivocal – while the dead were apparently indeed buried deliberately, the flowers might have been introduced by burrowing rodents.
Thus we know that funeral ceremonies are universal. It cuts across cultures, genders, races, and societies. We Filipinos have our own set of customs and traditions where funerals are concerned.
According to my research, a 1951 excavation in Northern Iraq determined that at least eight species of flowers, based on soil samples, were used at burial sites dating back to 62000 B.C., according to

Furthermore, flowers at funerals symbolize the life cycle, its beauty, and to bring warmth to the ceremony. Before the advent of embalming, flowers were also used to mask body decomposition. I was wondering how flowers come to symbolize the life cycle and its beauty so I started thinking. The analogy is perfect. A flower plant starts from a single seed. The seed germinates, grows, blooms, withers, and then dies. Such is the human life. From our mother’s womb, we develop until our mothers deliver us, we grow, we bloom into maturity, we grow old for some, and then we die. It’s as simple and complex as that.
Let’s face it. Flowers do have their effect on people. In a wake, flowers soften the atmosphere. It brings calm and peace. It’s really the beauty of flowers that bring on the calming, soothing effect. No matter when or where it started, flowers will remain universal in their symbolism and application during wakes.
So, what are we waiting for? Bring on the flowers.

This blog is dedicated to my mother-in-law Mimi Villalongja Canlas who passed away on January 3, 2012. (In my Father's house are many mansions, it if were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. John 14:2)

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