Sunday, September 6, 2009

Before You Say Goodbye

Funerals are unique things to be a part of. It’s very interesting to watch and listen to what goes on during the couple days of visitations and the service.

Besides the undeniable and necessary presence of grief, one of the other most notable presences is that of family and friends whom you haven’t seen for years. Forget about seen, at funerals you see people whom you haven’t talked to or perhaps even thought about, since, well, who knows when. Generally it is good to see these people again, and so you sit down next to them and get caught up on the details of their lives. Over coffee you hear about your Great Aunt’s granddaughters terrific new job; between bites of the finger sandwiches you’re scarfing down – maybe ham and cheese or perhaps salmon – you smile as you listen to cute stories about your distant cousins sons first words or first steps.

…And then perhaps more often than not you go your separate ways, until the next funeral, where you will have more stories to tell under a different but still familiar umbrella of grief. Sure, there’s weddings too, but chances are if you never talk to these people, you aren’t going to invite them. With funerals the invitations are null, whoever comes, comes. Bottom line, though, is that you sometimes find yourself saying “It was really good to see so-and-so again…why is it again that we are never in touch?

Another noticeable, and striking thing about funerals is how nice everyone is when talking about the person who has passed away. Whether it’s the funny stories that are shared with others as you strain to read the cards on the flowers to see who sent them, or the minister attesting to the person’s praise-worthy attributes. Almost always you will hear something like “Remember when Uncle Frank ate 7 donuts all at once on a dare?” or “Edith had a serenity about her that brought a sense of calm to everyone around her.” Seldom will you overhear things like “Cousin Jen was always the lazy one; that’s why she dropped out of college,” or “Aunt Brenda never had as good of a personality as her sisters.” And of course this positivity is the way it should be.

What can be learned from all this? Firstly, we can put more effort into keeping in touch with people - not just on special occasions. And more importantly, treat people kindly on a day-to-day basis, in life, not just after they're gone. As nice as it is to honour, memorialize, and reminisce about someone who has passed, isn’t it better to honour, uplift, and enhance the lives of those who are still around us?

I hope you’re enjoying your summer day.

Mark Andrew