Respect for the dead is important for the living. We often show this through holidays, eulogies, etc. Funerals, probably the most important ritual we encounter as humans, are the most prominent and immediate way we show this respect.
It is hard to say goodbye, and when it is sudden or unexpected, saying those goodbyes is even harder. We all know we are going to die someday. The only question is when.
But how far should we take funerals? What qualifies the deceased to receive fanfare or not?
First, I have to say, funerals are not for the dead, and they never will be. They are, like I said, a ritual for the living. One that allows us to not accept, but begin to process the death that has taken place. Sometimes, due to the nature of the death or the status of the deceased, we take our ritual too far. This can, in some ways, be more hurtful than helpful to those who were related or closely connected to the deceased.
Currently, Ogden witnessed a tragedy in the loss of Officer Jared Francom. I did not know this man, so what little I know of him comes from the news. I am not commenting on him whatsoever, merely addressing the way in which his funeral was handled. It is sad that he had to go the way he did. However, was all the fanfare really helpful and necessary for the family to better grieve the loss of their loved one?
Being a widow, I personally know that no matter how many people said, “I’m so sorry,” my husband was still gone, I still had a long process of grieving to go through and no, you can’t help me with it. I can’t help but think that Francom’s wife and family must feel the same way.
Every day that the story of his death was dragged out, retold, Francom’s family had to face that tragedy all over again. Because of the extravagance of the funeral, this fanfare continued their grieving, in public, for a longer time than was necessary. They deserved a private time to grieve — a time to be surrounded by those who truly knew Francom for the man he was and not strangers pretending to feel sorry for the sake of the grieving family. I say this because when I was grieving, the more people brought it up, the more I was reminded about the fact that my husband was dead. It was like being slapped in the face over and over. I cannot even imagine having this at such a large scale as the Francom family. The reminders must have hurt so much.
Fanfare also gives the impression that certain people’s lives were more important than others. Why does one person deserve more recognition than another? Yes, Francom deserved to be recognized for his heroism, but maybe someone else’s hero died that same day, receiving no recognition whatsoever. This, in some ways, is a blessing. The lack of fanfare allows the families to grieve with those who matter, but the other death, the one with more fanfare, will always overshadow the less-recognized death.
However, everyone reacts to death differently. Even though it was difficult for me to face the death of my husband through reminders, no matter how kind, it is not this way for everyone. Maybe the procession through Ogden helped Francom’s family and friends. Maybe they feel better knowing that people were willing to sympathize with them for at least a day. In fact, I hope it did. But Francom is still dead, his family is still grieving and the rest of the world has moved on.
I understand that the fanfare was maybe done on behalf of not specifically Francom himself, but on behalf of many officers who may have been in his situation. I am also very grateful for the work and heroism the police officers of Ogden show every day. However, I think we need to rethink how we honor the dead and find a way that can be respectful to the living as well, not just for cases of unexpected deaths, great heroism or crippling tragedy. After all, it’s the living who have to deal with the repercussions.