Friday, May 25, 2012

Funerals and Life

This week Connye received a phone call with news of a friend. Normally, these calls include catching up on past events, making arrangements to meet for dinner and other social information. This one was the Passing Away call, letting her know a close friend succumbed to illness and would we come.

The service began with a photo presentation of Fred's life displayed on screens with appropriate music accompanying. Fred lived a very full and enjoyable life with family, friends, church activities, travel, hunting and love of everyone.

The eulogy consisted of a collection of thoughts and memories from family, friends and the speaker. I began to miss a man I never knew. Fred, Marge, and Connye were long time close friends. They retired and moved away shortly after Connye and I married. Our life filled up with events and for unknown reasons we never planned the trip to visit them.

The Guest of Honor does not speak at his or her funeral, for obvious reasons. Yet, it seemed, Fred stirred my thoughts:
  • Why didn't we visit them?
  • Was the distance (260 miles and 4 hours) too far?
  • Connye and I had lunch with Fred and Marge and they were fun.
  • What will be said, sung and displayed at my funeral?
I explained my thoughts to Connye later concluding I had no answers. Fred reminded me my death will come. We make detailed before and after plans for special events such as:
  • Having guests over for dinner,
  • Weddings,
  • Graduations,
  • Sports events,
  • Winning a sport activity,
  • Block or office party.
A paradox of life is that we agree everyone dies yet, in my experience, very few anticipate the event and aftermath. The funeral is typically the simplest part of the process. Choose a service location, casket, plot and attendants. Finances, guardians for children, distribution of property, etc., should be in order as is possible. The remaining partner and or children should not have to fear their future.

Some people will not discuss the event.
  • My first wife had a terminal illness and would not accept or discuss she was dying nor would she consider preparations for her transition. Not saying farewell to each other was very hard for me.
  • My mother continued firm with instructions to cremate and distribute her remains. Her meager personal holdings were left to her offspring to decide distribution.
  • Connye's mother and I talked about her impending departure. The chats happened over several days and were spontaneous, interesting, intimate, and short. These were cherished moments with her.
How am I to be dressed? What type of songs? How do I want my service conducted?

All these are important but I think much less important compared to what is exchanged with loved ones before death. Such conferences were conducted before a wedding or a death to bestow blessings, advice and/or say goodbye.

I remember family gatherings to the home of great grandparents before their death. The GGP would call each member to their side for their last talk. These events happened at home so death seemed normal and not something to fear or fight.

I am reminded of the precious times a mother and daughter may enjoy before her wedding or the acknowledgement of manhood between father and son prior to his engagement to marriage. The passage from childhood to adulthood, girl to woman, boy to man should be attended and mentored by every mother and father and elder.

Fred, your last act of mentoring me is as real as if you were alive and I feel like your friend. Your funeral was a testament to your bountiful, loving life as expressed through those ministering and attending.  I pray you celebrate your new life and adventures with gusto.

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