"They're for the family," I huffed indignantly, like families weren't worth the effort. Or the ceremony for their loved ones was held simply to annoy me, the center of the universe.
"The person who died won't know whether I'm there or not," I proclaimed. Certainly an original thought, don't you think? I went shopping instead.
"The services are at an inconvenient time." I bet the people who are the stars of funerals think so, too.
And then on May 23rd, 2010, my father passed away at age 85. Suddenly, I was part of a family standing next to the casket to say good-bye. I watched in amazement as dozens of people filed in to touch my hand and tell me how much my father meant to them. I had no idea who many of them were. Some of them didn't know him at all, but they knew me, or my brother or sister, or my mother. All these people came to pay homage to my father or to give support to us. Many had the opportunity to stand and speak about my dad that day, of his quiet calmness, his Navy service, his dedication to my mother for 67 years. I was touched to the core.
Today I sat in a funeral service for a woman I didn't know well. She was a teacher, like me, and we shared membership in an organization that supports education and women in that profession. I never spoke to her family, I didn't speak to anyone. But I was there to be human testimony to her life of service to children and to show her family that she meant something just by having spent time here on Earth. Regardless of one's beliefs about what happens when our time here is done, today her family knows that she was respected and we all thought enough of her to show up.
And I will never avoid the opportunity again. I just wish it hadn't taken me so long.
“If you don't go to other men's funerals they won't go to yours.”