I Marvel How Finns Talk About Death As If Planning a Vacation

Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

I have often marvelled at the fact that many Finns are not afraid to talk about death. They discuss death as though it were any other topic like planning for the next vacation.

I was astonished the day I accompanied a Finnish friend to see her late daughter’s grave. She showed me the tomb and went ahead to explain that she and her husband will also end up in another corner of the grave. The look on my face was that of surprise. I asked her if she wasn’t afraid of death and she calmly said ”No! All of us will die one day.”

As we walked past the other brightly lit graves, I reflected on her words and its momentary impact on me.

I thought about how people in my country view the topic of death and the eventuality of all human. This is a topic most people will rather not discuss.

I was certain from that moment that a Finn’s honesty has no boundaries. They are not even afraid to talk about their own death!

I was certain from that moment that a Finn’s honesty has no boundaries. They are not even afraid to talk about their own death!

Since then I have often imagined how a Finnish funeral looks like. Funerals back home are seen as some kind of party; as soon as the deceased is laid to rest. There are usually enough food and drinks to go around every ”mourner” who came for the funeral. And this ”celebration of life” can last for many days.

I’ve come to understand that Finns are shrewd and are unlikely to lavish their resources in this manner.

The death of a friend’s relative brought my curiosity to a stop. I meet the deceased shortly before his death and it was only fair that I attend his funeral, besides my curiosity.

It was the most simple funeral I ever attended and the fact that everyone in attendance had some kind of relationship with the deceased surprised me. This was different from the funerals I had witnessed back home. A town can grind to a halt at the burial of a prominent person. Everyone who hears about such an event is a potential attendee and even people who didn’t know the deceased sometimes wept more than the bereaved relatives.

Flower presentations were made by the attendees and I listened to the best rendition of ”You Raise Me Up.”

As I walked away from the graveyard with the bereaved family, I continued to ponder on why Finns are not afraid to talk about death, even their own death!

Maybe I’ll get to know someday.