OK, so I like funerals. Is that weird?
I didn’t like them so much when I was young but as I got older, they grew on me. Now, I enjoy them.
Funerals are an odd mixture of grief, humor, re-connected relationships, and food. I guess you could say they’re all about life, love, and laughter.
I’m fond of all three but I’m particularly fond of the laughter part. I attended a funeral a few days ago. My eye started to itch during the service. I didn’t want to scratch it because I was afraid it would look like I was crying – and I wasn’t. And while there is nothing wrong with crying at a funeral, I didn’t want people to think I was crying if I was only scratching my eye. That thought made me laugh. Then I thought that the only thing worse than someone mistaking my scratch for crying is my laughing when nothing funny was happening. And that made me laugh harder. But beyond my own self-generated laughter, there were plenty of funny comments by the pastors and the speakers. We like to remember the joy that a person brought us. But funerals are so much more.
My fascination with funerals began when I was younger. I grew up in a small town and by my mid twenties, I had probably attended two dozen funerals. It’s just what people do in small towns. It was a sign of respect even if you didn’t know the person that well.
Then I worked in hospice care for ten years. Talk about funerals-a-plenty. The cool thing about hospice was that I was expected to go to funerals as part of my job. So, essentially, I got paid for it. Nice.
But here’s the thing. The best way to learn about the universal truths in life is to attend a funeral. Seriously. We don’t just learn about the value of the person that has died, but of the value of life in general because, at funerals, we only focus on the important stuff. You won’t hear about cars, houses, or salaries at a funeral. You will, however, hear about relationships, faith, and character.
During the recent funeral I attended, John, the son of the man who died, talked about the impact his father had on him. As his father got older, John asked him about life and whether he was satisfied with it. His father said, “I’ve had such a full life, I don’t have room for regrets.”
Wow. That’s why I love funerals.
The image of this man whose blessings filled up all available space so that there was “no room” for regrets is inspiring. It shows us what kind of person he was, but it also forced us to look at our own lives to see whether we were living with an attitude of abundance or in a place of regret.
In so many ways, a funeral is not about the person who died but about the people who are still living. It’s in that moment where life meets death that we see what’s really important. And to me, that’s what makes funerals great.
Funerals – Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.