Posted by: howvoicebegan | 11/05/2011

Celebrating Life

In the US, we have developed a new phrase for funerals: A “Celebration of Life.” It seems to be more of a comfort associated with many happy events in life: birth, marriage, graduation, big accomplishments. “Funeral,” on the other hand, connotes despair, loneliness, and darkness.

There are many words we are changing the names of in order to make them feel more positive or less emotionally charged, despite it being the same thing: An “orphanage” is now called a “children’s home.” A “broken home” is a “dysfunctional family.” “Mankind” is now the gender neutral “humankind.”
Whether it swings into the category of political correctness or just attempts to make us feel better, different words still imply the same thing. Whether you attend a funeral or a celebration of life, many people are sorrowful and serious as they say their final goodbyes. If that’s what we call celebrating, I think I’ll take my party elsewhere.

Unless what you mean by “Celebration of Life” is something similar to what many African traditions hold, like the one I experienced in Zimbabwe for our Grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Tigere, who passed away.

Before the casket even enters the church, there is already upbeat singing. Check out this video to lift your spirits.

During the service, they break into song once again.

And even during the burial, singing and dancing accompany the grieving process.

Do you feel like you just watched a funeral service in those videos, or rather a joyous celebration? I love the nature of joy, hope, and celebration inborn in the culture of the Zimbabweans. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not say it is not okay to grieve or cry, or that you have to pretend to be happy in the light of death. Indeed, people cried and grieved, but it was overcome by singing and dancing.  The Zimbabwean funeral is a clear example of David’s words, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).  This is truly a celebration of the life of Mrs. Tigere.



  1. wow, youve made some very unusual videos here. It would be nice if U.S. funerals were this upbeat. I plan to live in ‘mankind’ my entire life. I think it is silly when people get offended over a word and ask me to say ‘humankind.’

    • Indeed, it is interesting how the grieving process can vary so widely between cultures.

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