Listen to me read this post:
Years ago, I attended a friend’s 90th birthday party. Her family intended it to be a celebration of this woman’s life. That’s what funerals are now sometimes called: celebrations of life. Only this celebration was held before the one we were celebrating had died. It was wonderful.
I loved seeing her glow as each eulogy was given. Some of the stories were touching and some were funny, and all illustrated a piece of her life. What a waste these tales would’ve been if she’d have been too dead to hear all the sweet memories folks shared about her.
Funerals are for the living.
I do understand that funerals are for the living. They provide a chance to connect and a chance to accept the passing of a loved one. Mourning together is better.
Funerals affirm that, even in the face of death, life goes on. We’ll all die but for now, we are alive. Funerals are good to remind us of this fact.
I also understand why folks come out for funerals. At funerals you see everyone; all those old friends and relatives crawl out of the woodwork and come back home. They step out of their comfortable, full lives, and they come to mourn and visit and reconnect.
At funerals someone often asks, “Why don’t we ever get together like this when there’s not a funeral?” Good question.
A gathering where no one’s dead can be fun too.
Now and then, I’ll invite people to events at which everyone is alive. Often my invitation is turned down cold. I can’t compete with funerals.
Next time I host a party, I’m going to call it a funeral just to see if more people come. Death more than simple pleasure seems to be worth making an effort for.
Don’t put off living.
We’re all guilty of putting off a life that begs to be lived. We especially put off the pleasant things. There’s something in our culture that still esteems suffering while it diminishes enjoyment.
I had a great aunt who worked hard all her life at a mundane job that she disliked. She kept working and promised herself that when she retired, she’d finally travel and enjoy life. I loved and admired this woman. When she became ill and died before she got to travel, I paid attention.
Suffering is not more important than enjoyment.
In our western culture, a high premium is placed on stoic suffering. I get it. When pioneers came to this land, stoic suffering was their only choice. Put your head down and work until you carved a life into this rugged nowhere. The strong survived and there wasn’t time to cultivate roses let alone smell them.
It’s different now. We can relax a bit and enjoy being alive. I won’t suffer in the hopes that someone will shed an earned tear at my funeral. I’d gladly exchange a tearful funeral for a joy-filled life. I wouldn’t even mind a bitter eulogy: “All she did was go around being happy and savouring life.”
I’m no martyr. The fact is, my suffering doesn’t improve anyone else’s life. It only makes me miserable and, in turn, I make the world more miserable.
It won’t kill you to go to the party.
When someone calls you to go spend time with the living, try to go. I know. Life is busy and there are competing priorities. Keep in mind that it is far easier to visit with the folks we love, to hold them and be near them, before they are dead.
Life is short and enjoying it fully is more important than suffering through it. It’s respectful to attend the funerals, but it’s crucial to go to the barbeques.
Categories: Classic Post