Many news articles on the recent death of actress Doris Day at age 97 mentioned her desire that no memorial service be held or grave marker erected.
Fewer cited her background in Christian Science.
In that lack of mention, the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina alerted GetReligion to a potential holy ghost.
A bit more on that in a moment. First, some relevant background from People, which quotes manager and close friend Bob Bashara:
In addition to saying Day didn’t “like to talk about” a prospective funeral or memorial, Bashara explains, “She didn’t like death, and she couldn’t be with her animals if they had to be put down. She had difficulty accepting death.”
“I’d say we need to provide for her dogs [after she died], and she’d say, ‘I don’t want to think about it’ and she said, ‘Well, you just take care of them,'” recalls Bashara. “She had several when her will was written, and she wanted to be sure they were taken care of. She didn’t like to talk about the dogs dying.”
An avid animal lover and animal welfare advocate, Day was brought up Catholic and was a practicing Christian Scientist after marrying producer Martin Melcher.
Day “drifted away” from organized religion after Melcher died in 1968, Bashara says, but remained “a spiritual person.”
“She believed in God, and she thought her voice was God-given,” he says. “She would say, ‘God gave me a voice, and I just used it.'”
Bashara says he remains unsure as to why Day was reticent about having a funeral, but explains, “I think it was because she was a very shy person.”
Was it because she was shy? Or did her Christian Science experience perhaps play into her view of death?
As Harmon points out, Mary Baker Eddy — who in 1879 established the Church of Christ, Scientist, as a Christian denomination and worldwide movement of spiritual healers — wrote:
If you or I should appear to die, we should not be dead. The seeming disease caused by a majority of human beliefs that man must die or produced by mental assassins, does not in the least disprove Christian Science. Rather, does it evidence the truth of its basic proposition that mortal thoughts and the belief rule the materiality miscalled life in the body or in matter. But the forever fact remains paramount that life, truth, and love save us from sin, disease, and death.
An archived Religion News Service article notes that Eddy’ “taught that God is infinitely good and that sin, disease and death are illusions.”
As for funerals, FuneralWise.com has this to say about Christian Science rituals — or lack thereof:
Mary Eddy’s followers believe that sin, disease, and death are not of God because He epitomizes all that is good. Instead, they believe suffering, both emotional and physical, to be a distortion of the mind. Grounded in these teachings, Christian Scientists rely on spiritual healing.
Christian Scientists do not have special funeral rituals and they do not hold their funeral inside Christian Science churches. To acknowledge a death, they gather in the home of the deceased or in a funeral home or crematorium. There, a Christian Scientist practitioner, one who has demonstrated a consistent ability to heal, conducts the service.
There are no specific ceremonies, but the group may hear readings from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and the King James Bible. Overall, funeral and burial rites depend on the wishes of the family.
The use of embalming is entirely up to the individual. The church does not offer any advice to either encourage or discourage the practice. Cremation, in-ground burial, and entombment are all permissible.
On a related note, another reader wonders in regard to the actress’ long life:
Can we credit Day reaching such an advanced mortal age on avoiding physicians?
Um, just in case my doctor is reading, I’m going to save that question for another day. Perhaps we could enlist “Religion Guy” Richard N. Ostling to tackle it sometime.