When Hazel arrives at the Literal Heart of Jesus Church for Augustus’ funeral, she sits in back of the visitation room. She notices that there are about eighty chairs, but one third of them are empty. She watches people walk to his coffin, some cry, others just say something to him. Each person touches the coffin, too afraid to touch his body. Hazel notes that no one wants to touch the dead.
By waiting in the visitation room, Hazel reveals that she feels alienated at the funeral. The empty chairs suggest that even though Augustus wanted to be remembered and famous, he will never get that wish. The people touch the coffin, but are afraid to touch Augustus body. The fact of her own impending death makes Hazel notice this and adds to her sense of alienation.
When Augustus’ parents notice Hazel, they shuffle over and both give her a big hug. She notices they both look old and tired. Augustus’ mother tells Hazel that Augustus really loved her, which Hazel already knows. As she talks to them, she says it feels like stabbing and being stabbed. When Augustus’ parents begin talking to Mrs. Lancasterand Mr. Lancaster, Hazel decides to go to Augustus’ coffin.
Hazel notices the toll Augustus’ death has taken on his parents, reminding her of her own fears for her parents after she dies. The stabbing pain stems from this idea, she is suffering due to Augustus' death, but she is also going to cause pain by her own death.
As she approaches the coffin, Hazel pulls the oxygen tube off and hands it to Mr. Lancaster. As she walks to the coffin, she tells her lungs quit complaining, that they are strong and can do this. When she sees Augustus, she notices that his hair is parted and his face plasticized, which he would have hated, but she knows it is “[her] lanky, beautiful Gus.” He is wearing the same suit he wore to Oranjee.
By taking the cannula out, Hazel shows that she wants to see Augustus for the last time without the symbol of their illness between them, as their love was not based on their shared illness, but on the people who they are. The suit works to show that their love always existed in the duality between life and death.
Hazel kneels beside his coffin and places her hand on Augustus’ chest. She says, “I love you present tense,” and that it is okay that he has died, although she is not sure whether he can hear her. She opens her clutch purse and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. She then slips them into the coffin. She whispers to his body that he can light them; she won’t mind.
By telling Augustus that she loves him "present tense," Hazel refuses to "bury him". She keeps the promise she made to Augustus at the gas station to get him cigarettes, but in a metaphorical sense, the cigarettes are a gesture to let Augustus know that he doesn’t need to worry anymore.
When the funeral starts, the minister walks to the coffin and talks about how courageous Augustus was during his fight with cancer, and how his valiant battle had inspired everyone in the room. When the minister says, “in heaven, Augustus will finally be healed and whole,” Hazel lets out a sigh of disgust. Immediately afterward, she hears a voice behind her say, “what a load of horse crap, eh, Kid?” She turns to find Peter Van Houten sitting behind her. When the minister says it’s time to pray, Hazel hears Van Houten say, “We gotta fake pray.” Hazel tries to forget about Van Houten and pray for Augustus.
Hazel is disgusted by the minister’s words because they posit that Augustus was not whole while living and that he is better off in heaven. Hazel does not believe in heaven, and knows how cancer clichés are harmful to those with cancer. Hazel is not excited to see Van Houten because of the way he treated them in Amsterdam, she would rather pray to something she doesn’t believe in, than acknowledge Van Houten’s presence.
The minister then calls up Isaac to deliver his eulogy. In the eulogy, Isaac talks about a visit he received from Augustus in the hospital just after having his eye removed. When Augustus arrived, he said, “I have wonderful news! You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!” After telling the story, Isaac is unable to go on, so he sits down.
Isaac’s eulogy not only shows the way in which Augustus was a dedicated friend, but that he was a person who thought about life with a different perspective than most. He was excited for Isaac because he had the opportunity to experience life in new ways, which is how Augustus confronted his cancer and the loss of his leg.
After another one of Augustus’ friends talks about how Augustus was a great basketball player and teammate, the minister calls Hazel up to speak. He says, “now we will hear a few words from Augustus’ special friend, Hazel.” His choice of words bothers Hazel, so when she gets up she tells the minister, “I was his girlfriend.” She begins by reciting one of the encouragements that hangs in Augustus’ house, “without pain, we couldn’t know joy.” She continues her Eulogy, spouting “bullshit encouragements” for the audience, as she has decided funerals are for the living.
Hazel wants it to be clear that she was his girlfriend because that's what they were. Cancer did not make their relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend somehow different or "special." Hazel uses one of the encouragements from Augustus’ parents, and even though she thinks it is "bullshit," she has begun to see some truth in it. The pain that she experiences through Augustus’ death allows her to develop new perspectives.
When the speakers finish, the congregation says a prayer for Augustus. While they pray, Hazel remembers their conversations in Amsterdam when Augustus had told her that he didn't believe in mansions and harps in heaven, but he did believe in something with a capital S. Hazel can not quite convince herself that they will be together again. She knows that she will go on accumulating loves and losses, and Augustus will not. She realizes in that moment that Augustus has once and for all “been demoted from haunted to haunter.”
Although Augustus believed in something after death, Hazel does not believe in an afterlife or feel Augustus’ presence in any way. Hazel is more concerned with whether life has meaning, and if so, what it means. By calling him the haunter, however, Hazel speaks to the fact that he will continue to haunt Hazel for the remainder of her life, living on in her memory.
They leave the church and head toward the cemetery to bury Augustus. Hazel tries to talk her way out of going; she doesn't want to see Augustus parents in pain, or her own parents knowing that they will bury her someday. Mrs. Lancaster, however, insists they go.
Hazel wants to avoid facing the fact that her own death will damage her parents, so she resists going and seeing Augustus’ parents in pain.
After the burial is over, Van Houten approaches Hazel and asks if he can hitch a ride out of the cemetery. Inside the car he introduces himself as “Novelist Emeritus and Semiprofessional Disappointer.” Van Houten takes out a bottle of whiskey and takes a swig. He offers it to Mr. Lancaster, who refuses, and then hands it to Hazel to takes a swig, despite her mothers scolding.
Hazel exerts her independence from her parents in this scene by taking a swig of the bottle. Van Houten’s comment, and the fact that he has even shown up at the funeral, suggests he feels some remorse for his actions.
Van Houten tells Hazel that he and Augustus corresponded after their trip. He says that Augustus demanded he come came to the funeral to make amends by telling Hazel what happens to Anna’s mother after her death. He tells Hazel answer to her question is, “omnis cellula e cellula,” explaining that every cell is born of a previous cell; life comes from life, and continues indefinitely. He asks her if she would like a further explanation, but says no. She calls him a pathetic alcoholic who just says fancy things to get people to feel bad for him. She tells him he is not the same man who wrote An Imperial Affliction and to get out of the car. As they drive away, Hazel feels bad for him.
Though Van Houten has arrived to make amends by telling Hazel the end of An Imperial Affliction, she is no longer interested. She does not need to know the end of the novel, because Augustus' death has given her an experience with death that gives her insight into what will happen to her parents. Van Houten’s explanation that life comes from life offers no insight about the meaning of life other than that it is meaningless. Hazel now feels bad for the man she once thought would know the answers to her questions, who would in a sense "save" her.
After the funeral, Hazel goes home with her parents and eats dinner in bed. She sleeps for a while and then wakes up to brush her teeth. As she looks into the mirror, she realizes there are two kinds of adults: those who are miserable like Van Houten who look for something to hurt, and those like her parents who walk around “zombically” doing whatever they had to do to keep walking around. Neither is appealing to Hazel. She feels like she has already seen everything pure and good in the world and was beginning to suspect that the love she felt for Augustus could never last.
As Hazel looks into the mirror she has an existential awakening about the adult world—an awakening that is part of coming of age. Her understanding is nihilistic, stating that there is no joy in being an adult, which is undoubtedly based in her suffering from Augustus death. The loss of love is part of her experience in coming of age, and without any additional experience after losing love, she is left with a nihilistic view of life.
Mr. Lancaster knocks on the door and comes into the bathroom. He hugs Hazel and tells her that he is sorry Augustus died. He says that it was a privileged to love him. Hazel agrees with him. Mr. Lancaster then tells Hazel that Augustus death gives her an idea of how he feels about her as her father.
Mr. Lancaster suggests that now that Hazel has experienced love and the death of a loved one, she is able to understand how they feel about her, and how they will survive her death.