I attended a funeral this past weekend.
Hold on. Don’t go anywhere, there’s a lesson there.
First, it had been a while, yet there we stood – masks on, distanced. While it looked much different than how it once was much remained the same. Stories told, laughs shared, tears shed; a mask and a virus can’t take that from us.
I didn’t know this person. I was simply there out of respect for my guy and his family who shared many memories and much love for a person taken much too soon.
As I met his family, listened to the tales, simply observed, my thoughts spun a bit.
Out of respect for the family and the person, names will be omitted; lessons however, will be shared. Lessons after all is how we grow and as I’ve shared with many who love me, it’s important to acknowledge that a life well lived holds a legacy. Simply put, how will you be remembered?
My guy remembered this special soul fondly. So fondly in fact that when I first crossed his obituary several weeks ago, it sucked the wind right out of him. I’d never met the person, but noting his age and year of high school completion thought perhaps he knew him and he did. Their families, I quickly learned were close and as his eyes welled with tears, the stories began to flow.
Funerals are tricky things. My inclination here is to say “funny,” yet there really isn’t anything “funny” about death. Death is final. It’s heartbreaking for those left with the void and the memories. It’s a goodbye we can never be completely prepared for.
Yet many years ago, my grandmother shared some wisdom which I now often share with others. Funerals are important, even if they are uncomfortable.
In the words of my grandmother, “Always go to the funeral. Everyone wants to go to the wedding, the baby showers … the happy times. The funeral is where the family needs you the most. Showing the love and respect at the saddest of times is when you are really needed.”
My grandmother passed when I was nine years old and I’ve never forgotten or ignored this wisdom. Her legacy is many things and as I type this I realize that wisdom was part of it.
I’ve shared that wisdom with my guy on multiple occasions and last Saturday we saw it play out. As a large family gathered to pay their respects and stories, it was evident the value of us attending to pay respects.
The person being honored was much too young, which much too often these days seems to be the case. Well, who are we kidding, even when they’re older (a full life lived) it’s still hard to accept. Loss is just hard.
Listening to the stories last Saturday however, of a man I didn’t know, my mind thought one simple thing: nailed it. At the young age of 53 this man lived the heck out of this life and he did it well.
What do I mean by “well” you might ask? “Well” for me is exactly what I witnessed. Family members, sisters, brothers and nephews sharing stories of actions and affection which impacted their lives. Through each story there was one common thread; this man loved his family and his family loved him. How cool is that?
I mean at the end of the day, isn’t that what this is all about – loving one another?
So here’s the lesson, the takeaway, if you will.
This was my first funeral in a very long time, most definitely my first since being diagnosed with cancer. Cancer brings us close to the obvious – mortality. In my opinion, it’s a gentle little nudge from God. A sort of, hey, you’re not done yet but keep at it; you have a job here.
As I told my guy, the only difference between me and everyone else is I recognize I have cancer, but I can just as easily be taken by a car crash on my way to the grocery … that’s all up to God.
In the meantime we need to live the heck out of this life, just as his childhood buddy did. We need not let fear from a virus keep us from making memories with our families and loving on our people. We may be “distanced”, yet we are not dead.
Read that again. There is power in that. There is power in knowing that attending a funeral, making a phone call or dropping a note may have significant impact on someone unsuspecting and that is what it’s all about.
Regardless of circumstance, live as fully and as impactful as life allows. Rest easy now, fellow cancer warrior, you lived your purpose and while we never formally met I’m grateful for your life. God Bless.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.