Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen several friends post on their blogs or Facebook pages about funerals and it caused me to think about my own experiences with them over the my 41 years of life. For me, funerals are fun. I mean, if it wasn’t for someone dying, I
love enjoy going to them. Before you think I have some sort of weird and darkly morbid personality, consider my reasons for such a statement. First, it’s a family reunion of sorts. Nothing brings family together like a wedding or funeral. It’s an unfortunate chance to see and visit with many relatives who live in other parts of the country. In most of the funerals I attended in small towns in Wisconsin the actual ceremony was followed by a meal in the church’s fellowship hall. It was then that the gathered family (and friends) started to reminisce about the good old days with the dearly departed. Which is my second point. The sadness of death becomes a celebration of life as people share why or how they remember the “guest of honor”. I’ve learned so much family history from just listening to long-lost uncles from Milwaukee or Manitowoc tell their stories, each one trying to top the other. The amount of laughter was almost inappropriate considering it was at a funeral. I guess it was an early lesson about how to remember that a funeral doesn’t have to be a sad and somber time if you can use it as a chance to tell the story of the one you loved and miss. By the way, I don’t mean to diminish anyone who is sad and somber at a funeral. People grieve and mourn in different ways and speeds.
Third, you get to see how many lives are impacted by just one person. When my dad died seven years ago, I was amazed and a little surprised by how many people showed up for the visitation and funeral. I expected the family and friends…but I was blown away by the number of people who knew my dad professionally through his career working as a city employee in the public works department. Several guys came through the line and shook my hand, telling me that they never worked with someone who had such integrity. Others praised his tireless work ethic. Even former neighbors that hadn’t seen him in 20+ years showed up and shared nice memories of him. During the luncheon that was held after the ceremony, there was a microphone available for anyone to share a memory about my dad. It was moving to see people stand up and tell how he had impacted their lives.
Fourth, one word. HUGS! In case you missed it, I’m a big hugger. Literally and figuratively. I suppose it took the deaths of the two most important men in my life, my grandfather in 2005 and my father in 2007, for me to realize the power and importance of human touch, particularly the hug. For some reason, people don’t approach tall guys like me for hugs very often. But, hey, giants are people, too! Hugs are good for the body, mind and soul. Don’t wait for a funeral to give someone a hug, though.
Finally, funerals are inspirational. Hearing the stories and seeing how many people are impacted by just one life inspires me to be a better person. It makes me consider what I’m doing with my life and why I’m doing it. And any time I take to look inward and reflect for a few minutes is time well spent. It also gives me a chance to look around and see how many blessings I have in my life and to remember to not take them for granted. After all, you never know when your time is up, so say what needs to be said and live your life!
Carl, I love stopping by your blog. It is always heartfelt and honest. Many of us slog along in relative anonymity and are proud of it. The legacy of love you are leaving here is of vital import, I very much respect that. I hope one of your beautiful children read this when you are gone, or any of the stories you tell here. Great job.
So,so true… They often turn onto a bit of a knees up!
I see your point. However maybe you have never had someone taken from this life at what I would consider the “wrong” time. Or maybe their passing wasn’t a complete loss. You saw it as an end to suffering on different levels. Not all deaths and funerals are like that. Most are not.
When I was little. Another boy at sunday school he was about 6 i think – He was taken, kidnapped, killed. I don’t know what other awful things happened before he died. I was too young then to know. I do remeber singing his favorite songs at the funeral. One was ” Our God Reigns”
still think of him and that momment at the funeral when i hear that song. And I remember how I never understood how God could rain. Made no sense to me as a kid. A raining God and a little boy about my age dying. The church was filled with people i knew. It was a really sad and hard time. I thought of him lots growing up. I sure didnt understand how someone could take him and do that to him. I still don’t understand. My dear and wonderful cousin died in in his late 20s. He was such an good and giving and caring person. His was filled with family and hisfuneral was not fun. I’ve had friends with young kids die from cancer. One had 4 boys. She was an amazing woman. Her youngest boy was still under 2. Her oldest not more than 12. The youngest left his seat during the funeral and spontaneously toddles towards the casket saying “mama”. Still rips me apart to think of her and her boys and husband without their mama and wife. And I still miss my friend. Those funerals are not fun. And that funeral was packed with some of my dearest friends. Standing room only. My grandma died suddenly at 80. My family was all
around and though maybe easier to reconcile than my cousin or friends, it was still sudden. She was still at home and going trough cancer treatment. We talked often. She still had her garden all planted, baking had just been done and her clothes for church still layed out on her bed waiting for her. A sewing project and painting left partway done in the other room. Her presence still hung in the air. She was such a wonderful and completely giving and positive person. Even with all the family. That was not a fun funeral. I miss her. She was always such an encouragement to me. And she was tireless in her trying new things and learning and growing in life. She always wanted a red sports car. She liked to drive fast. I miss her.
I think of all our war heros coming home in a casket. Those can not be fun funerals. They gave so much and lost too much. I’m sure those are very tearful.
Sarah, you make some great points. I have been to funerals of people taken at what seems, from our perspective, to be the “wrong” time. I remember when I was 10, a 12 year old girl that I knew from Sunday School was killed by a drunk driver. What amazed me then was how her family used her funeral to both mourn and celebrate her short life. There were lots of tears. As a parent now I cannot imagine the emotions that they felt. I’ve been to a funeral where a seemingly healthy cousin turns up dead on his houseboat; another where the deceased was active as a youth mentor and coach and died from inoperable brain cancer in his 40s; and one in which a UW Professor who used his engineering degree to bring fresh water to people in Rwanda was taken by cancer in his 50s. We’ve all experienced loss that hurts. What has helped me (and many others) is to remember the loved one by sharing stories with one another so that we can all benefit from that person’s life, even after his or her death. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world so we’re going to experience lots of hurt and pain, sometimes to a devastating degree. Some of us process our grief by sharing the happy memories, trying to make the best of an awful situation.
[…] that funerals could be fun? A humourous but sensitive look at the most sombre of occasions from Big Cheese Dad. After a recent family bereavement, this really rang […]